Monday, May 21, 2007

Why India Needs Nuclear Energy, and a Whole Lot More

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.

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.
Further...
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.

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.
That's right, nuclear energy can't do it alone. But facing down the challenge without nuclear energy would be impossible.

Click here for possible links between India and Brazil on transfer of civilian nuclear technology.

2 comments:

Stewart Peterson said...

Why can't nuclear energy do it alone?

Why is 50% coal, 20% oil, 20% gas, and 10% hydro a diverse, secure mix and 50% reprocessed spent fuel, 20% thorium, 20% downblended weapons material and MOX, and 10% hydro isn't?

Why does "nuclear energy" necessarily mean "1200-MWe LWR running on fresh uranium?"

NNadir said...

I have been to India. If there was ever a place that cried out for nuclear energy, India would be it.

There is a relatively well off and educated class of people there - almost a nation within a nation - but the poverty is unimaginable if you just let yourself see it.

India has relatively large thorium resources and CANDU reactors, so they should be far more agressive about expanding their nuclear energy profile.