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Nuclear Debate

Nuclear power is clearly a dead end technology; it is not sustainable since there is only a 50-year supply of uranium left in the world.

india Updated: Mar 22, 2006 12:09 IST


Nuclear energy is highly glorified. It is neither cheap nor clean and definitely not safe. Its concerns are environmental, ethical, social and political.

It is leaving behind a legacy of contamination. The accidents so far have been serious. The radioactive waste, including spent fuel till date contains some 100 billion curies of radiation, which is 1,000 times more radioactivity than was blown out of Chernobyl.

The reactor blast at Chernobyl and the Three Mile Island meltdown continue to claim lives. No accurate assessment of their overall impact has been conclusively made.

Nuclear power plants age dangerously. Equipment breakdowns, pipe cracks, clogging, generator bursting, have caused more than 50 fires, or other safety hazards in the US alone.

Nuclear power is clearly a dead end technology; it is not sustainable since there is only a 50-year supply of uranium left in the world.

Nuclear power plants are not cheap. They incur high capital costs. The industry is surviving thanks to heavy hidden subsidies in reprocessing and deferred costs of decommissioning.

Last 35 years have witnessed a popular movement against nuclear power based on the fear of possible accidents. Till date some 110 reactors have shut down.

Countries like Germany, Spain and Belgium have phased out their nuclear programmes.

Phase out of nuclear operations has led to development of alternatives. Renewable clean sources of energy such as windmills, solar panels, biomass and hydropower are becoming more popular.


It is, but another victim of threat perception and false propaganda generated by ill-informed environmentalists and opportunistic politicians.

But it is relatively clean and climate friendly, compared to a coal-fired power station, which produces 1,000,000 tns of CO2, causing global warming. Even the waste it generates is compact, and considered a “strategic fuel reserve” for the future.

But for every unit of electricity produced, hydropower causes 110 fold, coal 45 fold and natural gas 10 fold more deaths than nuclear power. It has a better safety record than fossil fuels.

But so do all power plants as they all have a finite life and need to be decommissioned within time. Power plants always have inherent risks which can be muted with vigilant management.

But huge amounts of energy is produced from small amounts of uranium. There is also a gradual shift to thorium-based reactors.

But low fuel costs, ease of transport more than compensate for these high costs. The overall cost of nuclear generation of electricity is 50% to 80% that of other fuel sources.

But nuclear plants are safely and profitably operating in 31 countries around the world. 24 new nuclear reactors are under construction in some 11 countries.

But countries like India, Russia and China are expanding their nuclear plans.

But installing solar cells to replace a $2.56 bn nuclear power plant would cost $92 bn–that’s 36 times more expensive, and the cells would cover 150 sqkm. Alternatives will prove to be expensive.

First Published: Mar 20, 2006 17:58 IST