Beijing to push forward plans after undertaking extensive safety review
Just as China has moved towards ending its ban on new nuclear projects after the Fukushima disaster by giving the go-ahead for constructing power plants, the former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, said in Beijing on Friday that India “had also come to the conclusion” that nuclear power would have to play a key role in achieving energy independence.
While Japan and some countries in the West, such as Germany, have moved away from nuclear energy in the wake of Fukushima, the Chinese government on October 25 signalled its intent to push forward its ambitious plans for the nuclear sector, albeit at a slower pace, after undertaking an extensive safety review.
Asked about China’s plans to go forward with nuclear energy, Dr. Kalam, who is in Beijing to attend a conference, told The Hindu in an interview that India was also of a similar view. “India has also come to the conclusion,” he said. “We have got to generate 20,000 MW by 2020, so definitely India is going ahead. There is no doubt about it.”
‘We have to shape ideas’
“Of course in a democratic nation,” he said, “some views will come out.. [But] we have to shape ideas.”
China, which is operating 16 nuclear power reactors and has 26 more under construction, on October 25 approved a Nuclear Power Safety Plan from 2011-2020, after a longer than expected safety review was initiated in March.
A Cabinet meeting decided China “will return to normal nuclear power construction by maintaining a rational construction pace,” indicating it would slow down its expansion plans.
The government said it would not construct any nuclear projects in inland areas — some of the 26 projects already approved are in the interior — and would only build plants in coastal areas.
To address safety fears, the government said it would also spend 80 billion yuan (Rs. 68,800 crore) by 2015 to upgrade security standards and phase out older reactors.
Dr. Kalam said the experiences of other countries — whether the bullishness in China or the wariness in Japan and Europe — did not ultimately matter as far as India was concerned.
“We have to think about what is right for India,” he said, “and India should go for energy independence.”
Offer to teach
Dr. Kalam was welcomed warmly on his first visit to Beijing, where he addressed a conference on Friday.
Peking University’s Council Chairman Zhu Shanlu, who met with the former president, extended an invitation to Dr. Kalam to deliver annual lectures at the university and conduct research here.
“They said you must teach here, and can come here and do research,” he said. “I love to teach youth wherever they are, I teach in the U.S., I teach in India. It is a unique place because this is the place where we have to build bridges.”
Scientists at the China Academy of Space Technology told Dr. Kalam they wanted to work with India and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on their space missions and set up a formal initiative.
Dr. Kalam on Friday suggested setting up a World Knowledge Platform for Global Action that would invest $4 billion to bring together universities, governments and entrepreneurs to take forward joint initiatives on sustainable development, energy independence and the environment.
“The youth and the intellectuals and the academy here, and even in the political field, can see there is a necessity to work together [with India],” he said, suggesting India could leverage China’s core competencies in manufacturing while India could offer its know-how in IT and the services.
“We [India and China] had a bad experience historically, the question is what do we do now,” he said. “If you look at Europe, they fought for 100 years and one day they all joined together. We have to make up our mind. Defence is of course very important for every country,” he added, “but we are talking about 37 per cent of the world’s population, and that is a great opportunity.”