The India-US civilian nuclear cooperation agreement may have muddled the diplomatic waters but it has come as a godsend opportunity for aspiring engineers to benefit from tremendous potential the deal is poised to generate for nuclear engineering education.
Few institutions in India are offering this course for various reasons but Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (JNTU), Kakinada has seized the initiative to offer a Master of Engineering course in nuclear engineering for candidates with B.E / B.Tech (Mechanical, Chemical, EEE, Civil and Metallurgy) degree.
Vice-Chancellor Prof. Allam Appa Rao has appointed renowned nuclear scientist J.S Rao as the programme advisor to draw from his rich experience in designing and maintenance of fusion reactors to which the future belongs and things have already taken a heady start.
It is pertinent here to mention that the slew of bilateral agreements which India started entering into for augmenting nuclear energy generation are bound to create a huge demand for nuclear technologists.
This is where the JNTU has not only scored over others in making a futuristic assessment of the need for nuclear engineers but taking a bold step in meeting the demand for this new breed of talent.
Prof. Appa Rao told this correspondent that nuclear engineers are involved in the design, construction, and operation of nuclear power plants for power generation, propulsion of nuclear submarines, space power systems, and handling of nuclear fuels, safe disposal of radioactive wastes and in medical uses of radioactive isotopes.
Major thrust area of work is researching in nuclear energy and radiation and the students could opt for specialisations in nuclear weapons, developing radioactive material for industrial and medical applications etc.
Why nuclear power?
Prof. Rao is of the firm opinion that nuclear power is the best choice for India to meet the burgeoning energy demand when compared to the sources of renewable energy namely solar, hydro and wind power. The foremost advantage of nuclear power is that large amounts of energy can be generated from a small mass of material.
For instance, complete fission of a kilo of Uranium emits the energy equivalent of 4,500 tonnes of coal or 2,000 tonnes of oil.
Though the sources of renewable energy are abundant, production of power on such a massive scale from them is prohibitively costly for India.
Quoting from the findings of International Energy Agency, Prof. Rao stated in a note on ‘Economics of Nuclear Power’, that India has at present an installed capacity of nearly 1,45,000 MW of power (all types including nuclear) against the requirement of 4,00,000 MW, which is projected to reach 12,50,000 MW by the year 2050.
Obviously, the generation of power from oil, gas and coal cannot fill the demand-supply gap in the foreseeable future because of the depletion of existing reserves and the concomitant danger of heightened CO2 emissions. Hence, the emphasis on nuclear power.