One theme we've hit on a lot since we started NEI Nuclear Notes is the fact that billions of people in the developing world are in need of electricity, and getting them that electricity in a way that's both affordable and sustainable is an incredible challenge for science, engineering and international public policy.
Case in point, India:
GURGAON, India — This suburb south of New Delhi is where the fruits of India’s economic advance are on full display: sprawling malls, skyscrapers housing India’s acclaimed software companies, condominiums with names as fanciful as Nirvana Country.Further...
But this fashionable address of the new India is also a portrait of ambition bumping up against reality, namely an electricity crisis that represents one of the major hurdles to India’s ability to hoist itself into the front ranks of the global economy.
Look up at the tops of buildings, and on any given day, you are likely to find three, four or six smokestacks poking out of each, blowing gray-black plumes into the clouds. If the smokestacks are being used, it means the power is off and the building — whether bright new mall, condominium or office — is probably being powered by diesel-fed generators.
This being India, a country of more than one billion people, the scale is staggering. In just one case, Tata Consultancy Services, a technology company, maintains five giant generators, along with a nearly 5,300-gallon tank of diesel fuel underground, as if it were a gasoline station.
The country’s energy needs are one of the government’s main arguments for a nuclear deal with the United States, which would allow India to buy reactors and fuel from the world market.That's right, nuclear energy can't do it alone. But facing down the challenge without nuclear energy would be impossible.
But even if the deal goes through, it would lift nuclear power, which provides 3 percent of India’s energy, to no more than 9 percent, said Leena Srivastava, executive director of the Energy and Resources Institute, a private research group.
Similarly, in the coming years, alternative sources of energy, like wind, are expected to double, but to no more than about 8 percent of supply.
Coal will continue to dominate power generation, and already more than a third of India’s coal plants do not meet national emissions standards.
Click here for possible links between India and Brazil on transfer of civilian nuclear technology.