By Kumar Chellappan | Place: Chennai | Agency: DNA
One of the pioneer nuclear scientists in the country says that India can very well suspend its entire nuclear programme. "It is true that we have spent thousands of croresof rupees to set up nuclear power plants. But we will be forced to spend thousand times more than that in the eventuality of a nuclear disaster," said Dr MP Parameswaran,former scientist of the Atomic Energy Commission.
Referring to the agitation by the Peoples Movement Against Nuclear Energy demanding the closure of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, Dr Parameswaran, India's first PhD in nuclear science, said the country is not that hard-pressed for nuclear power.
"Of the 750,000 MW power projected for 2030, fossil fuels will account for 400,000 MW. A ten per cent increase in this can offset the shortage produced by the suspension of the nuclear energy programme. We have all the expertise and production capacity to do this," he said.
According to this scientist, nuclear energy will become viable only with the development of a foolproof mechanism for radio active waste disposal and radiation damage.
"What they should do is to redesign the reactors at Kudankulam so that they could be operated either with coal or natural gas. Yes, there are costs inviolved in it. But the real cost of continuing with the nuclear programme is much higher," he said.
Dr Parameswaran, much senior to Dr Sreekumar Banerjee, the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, took strong exception to the latter's comment that a nuclear power plant is not acar factory where you can switch off the system.
"That is exactly the problem. You cannot switch off the system and close gates for decades and even centuries after the plant has stopped generating energy. There are several reactors in USA and France which produce no more power but cannot be switched off. These reactors require most of the system like cooling, radiation monitoring security and so on to keep working," he said.
The nuclear science veteran pointed out that the Fukushima disaster was caused not by the working reactor but by the spent fuel tank. He also refuted the claims of the AEC chairman that the country's scientists has all answers on radiation, safety and other aspects. "Has the issue of final disposal of radio active waste been solved? Has the possibility of nuclear accidents either due to human or mechanical or natural causes been totally prevented? The answer is no," he said.
Dr Parameswaran asked the AEC chairman to convincingly clarify the reason behind the pressure exerted on India by the Nuclear suppliers Group to sign the non-liability accord. "If the nuclear reactors are so safe, why they are forcing India to sign this treaty?. The manufacturers themselves are notconvinced about the durability and safety of the reactors," he said.
He pointed out that the agitation against the KNPP was therefrom the beginning itself. "It became intensive after Fukushima. The NPCIL should not have gone for hot run at all once the opposition flared up. They thought that the opposition could be steamrolled," said Dr Parameswaran.