Let s not chase the atom

  • 30/03/2006

Let s not chase the atom The Indo- us nuclear deal raises two critical questions. Do we need a large-scale expansion of nuclear power? Do we need to expand our arsenal of weapons of mass destruction? The answer to both is no.

Any evaluation of the potential role of nuclear power should begin with the history of failure of the department of atomic energy (dae). It had predicted that by 2000 there would be 43,500 megawatts (mw) of nuclear power. Instead, we have just 3,310 mw today less than 3 per cent of total electricity generation. Nuclear power is unlikely to become significant anytime soon.

The limited nuclear capacity has been expensive. By their very nature, nuclear reactors cost a lot to build and operate. The dae has compounded this by time and cost overruns. Even if one were to assume the dae's optimistic projections for future reactors, nuclear electricity will be more expensive than comparable base load coal plants; nuclear reactors in operation fare even worse. Moreover, these comparisons don't include the hard-to-quantify economic costs of dealing with wastes, nuclear reactors produce; these stay radioactive for tens of thousands of years. Leaving behind such a horrific legacy is unethical: future generations will face the consequences while we use the electricity. Already, the nuclear fuel cycle has wrought extensive health and environmental damage, especially on the marginalised. Nuclear reactor accidents

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