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Mains Practice Questions

  • Q. To meet rising energy demands, nuclear power is one of the better solutions. Critically discuss. (250 Words)

    13 Jan, 2022 GS Paper 3 Science & Technology

    Approach

    • Start by writing about the increasing need for energy in India.
    • Discuss the advantages of utilising nuclear power as one of the main sources for fulfilling energy needs.
    • Discuss the challenges and issues associated with nuclear power use.
    • Conclude suitably with a way forward.

    Answer

    In the immediate past, the world was dealing with a power and energy crisis. While the factors that caused this emergency differ country to country, the upshot has been a clamour to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and increase production of renewable energy. India will overtake the European Union as the world's third-largest energy consumer by 2030, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Thus need alternative sources of energy.

    Advantages of Nuclear Energy

    • Emissions from Nuclear Power Generation: Nuclear power is zero-emission. It has no greenhouse gases or air pollutants.
    • Land Usage: According to US government data, a 1,000-megawatt nuclear plant requires 360 times less land than a similar-capacity wind farm and 75 times less land than solar plants.
    • Nuclear Over Renewables:
      • Renewables are Unstable Sources: Solar and wind energy are intermittent and unstable. The power from these sources can only be generated when the sun shines or wind blows.
      • Ecological Damage from Renewables: Wind and solar projects can cause ecological damage to the relatively pristine areas where they are set up.
        • It is conservatively estimated that 500,000 birds are being killed every year by collision with wind turbines in the US.
      • Nuclear as an Alternative: In contrast to the intermittent nature of renewables like solar and wind, nuclear power can be used both to cover the electrical base load and for peak load operations.
        • Among the EU nations, Germany’s household-sector electricity price is the highest in the EU: $0.37 per kilowatt-hour (KwH) whereas in France, it’s $0.19.
    • Nuclear Energy and India: India and USA has signed the Indo-US nuclear deal.
      • In September 2021, the government announced that India would triple its nuclear power capacity in the next 10 years.

    Issues Associated to Nuclear Energy

    • Lack of Public Funding: Nuclear power has never received the quantum of generous subsidy the fossil fuel received in the past and renewable is receiving currently.
      • In absence of public funding, nuclear power will find it tough to compete against natural gas and renewables in the future.
    • Factors Pulling Nuclear Out of Competition: Increasingly poor economics of nuclear power across the world, skyrocketing construction costs, made worse by the post-Fukushima safety upgrades, and reliance on massive government subsidies are making nuclear power uncompetitive.
    • Grassroots Resistance: Reluctance towards new nuclear power plants in India resulted in considerable delay in commissioning the Kudankulam plant and forced the shifting of Westinghouse’s first planned project from Gujarat to Andhra Pradesh.
    • Acquisition of Land: Land acquisition and selection of location for Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) is also a major problem in the country.
      • NPP’s like Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu and Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh have met with several delays due to the land acquisition related challenges.

    Way Forward

    • Utilising the Available Resources: The estimated natural deposits of Uranium are about 70,000 tonnes and Thorium are about 3, 60,000 tonnes in the country.
      • India should invest ambitiously in projects that convert thorium to fissile uranium and produce power.
    • Addressing the Pre-Project Issues: The government must address issues related to the pre-project activities such as land acquisition at new sites, clearances from various ministries especially from the environment ministry and finding timely foreign collaborators.
    • Addressing Safety Concerns: Safety which is a major concern should be addressed on priority basis.
      • In this regard, setting up a Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority at the earliest would be helpful to the nuclear power programmes in the country.
    • Technological Support: Reprocessing and enrichment capacity also require boost in India. For this India needs advanced technology to fully utilise the spent fuel and for enhancing its enrichment capacity.

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