Experts participating in a two-day seminar which began here on Wednesday expressed divergent views on the role of nuclear energy as a cleaner alternative to fossil fuel sources.
Governor P. Sathasivam, who inaugurated the seminar, set the ball rolling by stressing the role of nuclear energy in the move towards cleaner energy sources necessitated by India’s climate change commitments. T.P. Sreenivasan, Vice Chairman, Kerala State Higher Education Council, said it was time to think of a world without nuclear energy and set a timeframe for the transition from nuclear power to cleaner sources such as solar and wind energy.
Pointing out that countries such as Germany, France, Switzerland and Austria were either committed to closing down nuclear plants or opposing nuclear renaissance, he stressed the need to formulate a new approach between nuclear enthusiasts and opponents. A former Ambassador and governor for India at the International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, Mr. Sreenivasan said India, China, and Russia were the only countries enthusiastic about nuclear power today.
Striking a different stand, Ashok Chauhan, Director (Technical), Nuclear Power Corporation of India, said the increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions posed a greater threat to the world than nuclear energy. “In fact, nuclear energy offers a solution to the threat posed by greenhouse gases that are responsible for climate change and rise in sea level.”
Citing the assessment of lifecycle GHG emissions, Mr. Chauhan said solar and wind energy were no match for nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuel. The lifecycle GHG emission of nuclear energy is 15 gm of co2/ kwh against 45 gm for solar power and 11 gm for wind energy. But wind energy had the disadvantage of a lower conversion rate of 22 per cent against nuclear power (90%). Solar power generation also required huge tracts of land and was not capable of uninterrupted power supply.
Mr. Chauhan said India would have to augment its nuclear generation capacity in a big way to meet its climate change commitments. He added that nuclear plants in the country conformed to international regulations in safety and technology.
Mr. Sreenivasan, who chaired the session, pointed out that the Paris climate change summit had not endorsed nuclear energy as a solution to the problem caused by GHG emissions.