The Fukushima accident on 12fth March 2011 has dented the image of Nuclear Industry very seriously once again. This was third serious accident after Chernobyl on 26th April 1986 and Three Mile Island on 28th March 1979. The impact of nuclear reactor accidents is magnified due to its direct impact in the beginning and the after effects of radiological products lingering in the atmosphere, food chain and water and potentially causing health hazards for years to come. The public perceptions about nuclear power remain negative for years like a long life radionuclide.
There are industries that we are dependent on like aviation, mines, roads, automobiles, bridges, rail road’s etc. These industries too kill thousands each year. Nuclear power is facing difficulties in competing to retain its public acceptance even though in absolute terms it did not result in causing deaths of a small fraction of the numbers that other leading industries had been responsible each year.
Nuclear industry has learnt a lot from the back-lash and vicious attacks about its desirability to supply large scale power production through fission route in several countries after each accident. Nuclear accidents will become rarer with experience and learning but are we ready to accept this approach and allow this industry to grow and play a role in Indian commercial power generation mix?
I think we should sustain this technology for many reasons. First of all power will be required for country’s sustained growth and there is no escaping from this fact. Coal based power generation kills thousands each year without you and me making any fuss, Hydro kills environment but we accept it and renewable energy needs time , several decades, to catch up. This is one Industry that has matured for over 60 years developing and using all types of power reactors world over.
In India we mostly used PHWR type but will add PWR and BWR Types as well, once we import them from Russia, USA and France. These are fairly advanced and well evolved technologies and will ensure that in their operating life time they would not fail and cause public danger. We will also master them over the years and add new ones on self-reliant basis.
Each reactor adds more than 1000 MW installed capacity and this is rapid route to add to national kitty of capacity addition from non-CO2 generating power production units.
Here are some ideas to accelerate nuclear capacity addition in India. Like renewable energy power projects government could allow 80% depreciation in year one of operation. No direct Taxes for 10 years from commercial operation. Allow Renewable Energy Certificates (REC) for nuclear power plants and fix minimum forbearance price of INR 1.5 per unit. Make it salable in Energy Exchanges like IEX in India. It will be sold like hot cake to meet the Renewable Energy Portfolio (RPO) obligations of states utilities to (about 10% of total consumption should come from Renewable Energy quota on per annum basis) to buy green power. The market (buyer of nuclear power) will only pay say INR 4 per unit for Nuclear Power and IEX type exchanges will generate extra INR 1.5 per Kwhr to meet the viability gap of investor (NPC in this case).