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  • TERI and INS organize a National workshop on ‘Nuclear Energy Development in India: addressing climate change, public perceptions and large scale deployment’

    13 August 2009

    Surging energy demands and nuclear renaissance key factors to promoting nuclear energy -- Dr R Chidambaram, Principal Scientific Adviser

    Imagine lighting up Delhi using electricity from a lump the size of a soda can! Nuclear energy makes this possible -- with minimal fuss and practically no emission of the bad boy of global warming: carbon dioxide. It has emerged as one of the best bets for kicking the world's dependence on fossil fuels. To discuss the same, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and the Indian Nuclear Society (INS) organised a one-day national workshop. Present on the occasion were Dr R K Pachauri, Director General, TERI, and Chairman, IPCC, Dr R Chidambaram, Principal Scientific Adviser, Government of India, and a panel of top nuclear scientists from the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), researchers from the Bhabaha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), TERI, and policymakers, who then brainstormed the relevance of nuclear energy to India's technological, economic, and environmental future.

    Speaking on climate change and its implications for the energy sector, Dr R K Pachauri said "We are facing some urgent challenges and unless we are able to pool our resources we will lose the climate change battle. Nuclear energy can be seen in two contexts: a) Climate Change and b) ensuring energy security. With regards to climate change, the fourth assessment report of IPCC has proved scientifically that warming of the planet is unequivocal and most of the warming took place in the last 50 years due to human action. Climate change is not merely warming of the globe but the disruption of the climate system of the planet. India has been long dependant on conventional fuels such as coal and oil. However, we can't continue to depend on the same for a long time. Thus, to ensure energy security, we must foresee our needs and look for substitutes to ensure our energy security. Here, I don't see a conflict between nuclear and renewable energy, especially solar energy and I feel that we need both forms of energy. Nuclear energy and technologies associated with it have progressed and time has come to work together objectively."

    Describing a strategy for long term energy security for India, Dr Chidambaram stressed the need for using high resolution modeling to develop mitigation technologies. "As the world moves away from fossil fuel-powered development, it is important for a country like India to tread a low carbon path. India's per capita electricity consumption has to go up eight times for Indians to have the same quality of life as Americans and Japanese, and for this, the country would have to push nuclear energy in a big way. For this, I feel renewable like solar, wind, hydro, and nuclear are extremely important. Nuclear, hydroelectricity, renewables, and energy efficiency are the mitigating technologies that will reduce India's greenhouse gas emissions that are leading to climate change. Surging energy demands and nuclear renaissance are key factors promoting nuclear energy. We have to worry about our local and global environment and nuclear energy should be seen in this context." He cited the examples of France where 80 percent of the electricity comes from nuclear power plants and Japan (30 percent) as economies that have almost wholly gotten over the fossil fuel habit.

    Dr Chidambaram recalled that it was in 1954 that a nuclear power reactor put electricity into the grid for the first time in the world. Just a couple of years down the line, in 1956, India's first reactor managed to do the same. This speaks volumes about India's capabilities in nuclear energy development. Given the fact that in the near future renewable energy will not be commercially viable on a large scale, we will have to use nuclear power to supply our needs. "Only a massive expansion of nuclear power, which produces almost no CO2, can complement climate change mitigation efforts of the country." He said "India's closed nuclear fuel cycle has been necessitated by the country's three-stage nuclear program for the optimized use of a very limited uranium base, and extensive thorium reserves. The first stage with Pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) is well established, while the second stage (with Fast Breeder Reactors or FBRs) is being implemented. The crucial third stage envisages advanced nuclear power systems to be based chiefly on thorium.

    Later, answering questions from the audience, Dr Chidambaram said "Today other countries want to collaborate with India on nuclear energy development, since we are in a position to offer technical cooperation at a quarter of the costs elsewhere".

    India's energy security concerns require that India add significant power generation capacity in the coming years at a fast pace, lest the economy suffers. Nuclear energy has the potential to address a major portion of India's power shortage. The Indo-US nuclear deal set in motion several events for the Indian nuclear industry. Several international technology suppliers have been showing keen interest in selling nuclear power generation technology to India, and the Prime Minister's office has put nuclear power development at a high priority.

    This workshop provided a unique platform for stakeholders representing various segments of the society as well as the Indian & international nuclear industry to interact with each other. A wide range of professionals from all fields related to the nuclear industry, right from finance, construction, and engineering, to regulatory bodies and policy makers attended the workshop.

    This workshop helped in better understanding of the Indian nuclear sector by identifying some major challenges in the large-scale deployment plan, such as regulatory issues, public concerns, etc.

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