N-power the new green fuel, says PM’s scientific adviser


New Delhi : India’s per capita electricity consumption has to go up eight times for Indians to have the same quality of life as Americans and Japanese, and for this the country would have to push nuclear energy in a big way, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister R. Chidambaram said here Thursday.

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A large dose of nuclear power was the only way India would achieve both energy security and combat climate change, Chidambaram held while delivering the keynote address at a workshop organised by the Indian Nuclear Society and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) here.

“Nuclear, hydroelectricity, renewables and energy efficiency are the mitigating technologies that will reduce India’s greenhouse gas emissions that are leading to climate change,” Chidambaram said.

“The world realises this, and that is why there is a nuclear renaissance in developed countries.”

Chidambaram referred to a 2007 report of the International Energy Agency which said that for the world to keep global warming within two degrees Celsius, nuclear power would have to grow 80 percent by 2030.

And India has a big advantage in the aera of nuclear power, he said, since Indian scientists had worked in this area for over 50 years. “The next generation fast breeder reactors (FBR) using plutonium (instead of uranium) are ready. The first FBR will be up next year, and four more by 2020.”

By that time, India will be ready to move third generation nuclear power stations, using thorium, Chidambaram predicted, “though it still needs a great deal of research and development”. He expected India with its vast thorium reserves to become a global leader in this form of technology.

Tackling one of the major concerns about India’s nuclear power programme, the question of safety, Chidambaram pointed out: “Next generation reactors have inherent positive safety features that do not need human intervention.”

TERI head and chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change R.K. Pachauri said safety levels in Indian nuclear power stations had improved in recent years. “It is now a challenge of communication. The public perception should be based on reality and not on vague fears.”