Does nuclear power have a future in India?

By: T P Sreenivasan

India cannot but be affected by the gloomy nuclear energy scenario around the globe.

The development of nuclear power in India is driven as much by fantasy and romance as by scientific and strategic calculations. Like its foreign policy, planning and scientific temperament, Pandit Nehru bequeathed nuclear policy to India, on which there has always been a national consensus. Homi Bhabha is a national hero and his tragic death in an air crash is considered part of a conspiracy against India. Extreme secrecy surrounds nuclear policy and programs in a country, which is brutally open about other matters of national importance. Even when prophecies and projections are proved wrong and official actions become inexplicable, no system exists to explain the unforeseen developments, which may have altered the course. Sanctity is attributed to policies formulated and projects launched many years ago and course correction, even when it is made, is projected as business as usual. Much has happened in the nuclear arena, but India is, by and large, committed to its nuclear future.

A quick and direct answer to the question that we ask ourselves today is, therefore, yes, India will have nuclear power for the foreseeable future. It will certainly grow despite dire predictions to the contrary and the fact that public opposition is growing both on account of safety considerations and new scientific information, which calls into question the feasibility, the cost effectiveness and the wisdom of long term reliance on nuclear power. The way India has dealt with the issues arising out of the India-US nuclear deal, Kudankulam and Fukushima confirms that its faith in nuclear power still abides. The three-stage nuclear power development program, adopted more than half a century ago, is alive and well, though the pace of progress from the second to the third stage has been slow and the envisaged use of thorium has not become viable as yet.

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