Tag Archive for 'Nuclear energy'

The future of nuclear energy in India

Amitav Ghosh on his blog:

On December 3, 2011 I wrote, in a post on this site: ‘I met M.V. Ramana in 1998 when I was writing Countdown, my essay on the nuclear situation in the Indian subcontinent. He was one of the most knowledgeable of the many experts I sought out (he has a PhD in physics from Boston University and has devoted many years to nuclear issues)… Ramana is associated with the Nuclear Futures Laboratory and the Science and Global Security program at Princeton University; he is also a member of the Coalition for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament. His forthcoming book “The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India” is sure to be the definitive study of the subject: I can’t wait to read it.’

Ramana has since sent me the book (or rather the manuscript, which is soon to be published by Penguin India). I have just finished reading it and it is indeed the definitive work I had thought it would be.

Ramana has been working on nuclear issues for a long time and The Power of Promise is the summation of decades of research. This is not to say that it is a daunting tome, either literally or metaphorically: at a mere 241 manuscript pages (not including notes and appendices) it is actually surprisingly concise.

Perhaps the most important thing to note about the book is that it is not primarily about nuclear weapons. Its subject, as the subtitle states, is nuclear energy and the claims that are being made for it, in India and elsewhere – that it can feasibly meet the world’s expanding energy needs and that it is a relatively safe and economical alternative to fossil fuels. More:

And here’s the link to part 2.

Some learned from Fukushima. Did we?

Pervez Hoodbhoy in The Express Tribune:

Fukushima has also shaken China and India, though much less. They were planning 77 and 23 new reactors, respectively. But a normally passive population is speaking up in China. China’s eastern province of Anhui province opposes the Pengze plant, located in a populated area. A formal appeal has been made to Beijing to stop construction.

India’s nuclear programme, a holy cow until now, is also being protested. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh angrily denounced protests against the Koodankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu, claiming these were being led by foreign-funded NGOs. Mass protests and hunger strikes by social movements have led to deaths, injuries and riots in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Jaitapur. The construction of two nuclear plants has been delayed and West Bengal has dropped plans for six Russian reactors.

The world is still worried about Fukushima. But does Pakistan worry? Even as explosions tore through the nuclear complex, the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Commission flatly declared that a Fukushima could never happen here. It issued the following vanilla guarantee: “Due to geographical differences between Pakistan and Japan, the likelihood that similar extreme natural events may occur in the vicinity of the country’s nuclear plants is quite small”. More:

Scientist, citizen, artist

Nehru, Bhabha, JRD Tata and K. Chandrasekharan at TIFR, 1962. Photo: Penguin

In The Indian Express, C. Raja Mohan reviews a book on Homi J. Bhabha (A Masterful Spirit: Homi J. Bhabha; Penguin) by Indira Chowdhury & Ananya Dasgupta:

Homi Jehangir Bhabha was unquestionably one of the most refined modernists of 20th century India. As the architect of independent India’s science and technology institutions, Bhabha’s legacy will endure .

He is often cited and always praised. And his name is invoked with reverence, not necessarily for the right reasons. Recall how Bhabha’s three-stage programme for India’s nuclear energy development was made the ultimate criterion for judging some of the terms of the controversial civilian nuclear deal with the United States. As an authentic internationalist and cosmopolitan, Bhabha might have been shocked by the provincialism and knee-jerk anti-Americanism of his successors at the Department of Atomic Energy.

As a man committed to scientific temper, he might have been saddened by the uncritical chanting of his three-stage formula, without any reference to the changed conditions and improved knowledge of reactor physics. More:

Considering an alternative fuel for nuclear energy

Scientists have long dreamed about turning thorium – which is less radioactive and produces less nuclear waste than uranium – into an alternative fuel for nuclear energy. From the New York Times:

India has been making advances in the field of thorium-based fuels, working to design and develop a prototype for an atomic reactor using thorium and low-enriched uranium.

The country has a long-term objective goal of becoming energy-independent based on its vast thorium resources, Anil Kakodkar, chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission, said in a speech in Vienna in September.

Dr. Raja said that India’s new thorium reactor does not use an accelerator. Instead, it is a fast-breeder reactor and neutrons are produced by a plutonium core rather than an accelerator.

“The advantage of using an accelerator is that if something goes wrong, we can switch it off,” Dr. Raja said. Accelerator-based systems operate at subcriticality, which means they can produce fission without achieving a self-sustaining nuclear reaction. More:

Below, from World Nuclear News:

India has announced intentions to export power reactors to other nations and is developing an advanced design for that purpose. The head of India’s Atomic Energy Commission, Anil Kakodkar, announced yesterday in Vienna a special version of the forthcoming Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) adapted to use low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel. More: