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This website is a renovated website of Adyar Gopal Parivar. I am Dr. Mohan G Shenoy inviting you to visit the website to understand the many different families that form this Parivar.
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QUESTIONS ABOUT NUCLEAR ENERGY
By Mohan Shenoy
        India is soon going to buy or indiginously manufacture many nuclear reactors to produce electricity that will be required for its vast population. The Indo-US Nuclear Deal might materialize once the US Congress gives its nod to go ahead and sign the deal.

        Electricity is needed to light the homes, power the factories, and for a host of other essential purposes. Communication requires electricity. Our life is dependent upon constant electric supply in our electrical lines. Man has allowed himself to be a captive hostage of one of nature's intricate attributes.

        First he used the steam to drive his locomotives and other machines. Then he used the surprisingly efficient petrol to fire his internal combustion engines and other motors. Petrol and natural gas could be used to produce electricity too. He dug out black stones and powder called the coal which could produce enormous heat when burned. This heat was used to produce steam to roll the generators that produced electricity. He harnessed the power of the falling water of the nature's giant water falls to turn the elements of an electric generator to produce high voltage electricity. He devised a network of wires, transformers and switches to distribute this electricity to homes, offices, factories, farms, and communication towers. He could safely carry this power wherever there was a need for it.

        Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India was skeptical of the intentions of advanced countries when they offered to sell equipment to India for production of power. He was intent upon self-reliance in industrialisation of India. He did not rush to sign treaties either with USSR or with USA to get favours in defense and trade. He was a true Gandhian in looking inwards at the poor multitude hordes living in our villages. He knew begging and borrowing is not the solution India could afford.

        Slowly but surely India was able to design and develop its own equipment required to install huge electricity generating plants across India. India  did not fritter away its political strategy. In the matter of building nuclear reactors to produce electricity India did acquire a Canadian aided plant that was installed at Tarapore.

        The nuclear powers such as USA, UK, USSR, and France were reluctant to allow other countries acquire the capacity to produce nuclear weapons. The material that was used to make an atom bomb was the same as that used in the nuclear reactor electricity plant. Hence any country possessing a nuclear reactor can process the raw materials for the purpose of making an atom bomb. Therefore the Nuclear Powers (having nuclear bombs) wanted all countries that wished to purchase nuclear reactors for peaceful purposes to sign a document known as NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty). India refused to sign this document because it did not wish to be included in the group of non-nuclear states.

        Why did India choose to remain a non-signatory of the NPT? The answer is vague but a reason cited is that the People's Republic of China (PRC) had nuclear weapons. PRC and India fought a war in 1962 over the border dispute. PRC has been holding large tracts of Indian territory and claiming that this land belongs to it. There is a fear that PRC will not give up its occupation of this land, of which India has been the owner since many Centuries.

        India might not go to war to free this land so long as the PRC threatens to use its nuclear bombs if attacked. India did test its atom bombs twice; once in 1974 and again in 1998. After the 1998 test India declared that it will not undertake any further testing to acquire nuclear capability. It was assumed that India acquired the complete technology to produce any number of atom bombs following these two tests.
        The irony is that India refuses to sign the NPT even now but accepts several conditions of the group of countries (Nuclear Suppliers Group) that sell nuclear reactors  and fission material to it under this new Indo-US Nuclear Deal. The conditions laid down by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) are practically identical to those that are written in the NPT. India will remain a non-signatory of the NPT because it wants to keep its options to produce atom bombs but at the same time it has agreed with the NSG to not test nuclear weapons any more, permanently.

        The nuclear reactors and the raw material needed to produce electricity from them are very expensive. India can not afford to buy these white elephants and loose money in the process. Even the machinery we acquire from Japan for our factories have to be serviced by Japanese technicians. The spare-parts have to be imported from Japan when the machinery breaks down. Service requisitioned from Japan is expensive, but the service requisitioned from USA will be doubly or tribly expensive. India will have to keep a disproportionately huge budgetary allocation to purchase, install and maintain nuclear reactors and thereby get entrapped in the cycle of unending expenses just for a small proportion of the power produced in the country.

        India wants every thing green, which means we want all our activities environment friendly. Any activity that damages the environment will have obstacles created by the residents living in the area where such activity is held. Even the gas-powered and coal-based power plants have faced opposition from the environmental activists. There will be strong opposition from a large proportion of the residents of any area where a nuclear power plant is going to be established. There is a scare in the minds of the people about the dangers of radiation from a power plant. Accidents at a nuclear power plant will result in shutting down the plant for long periods of time. There have to be back-up provisions to supply electricity that are affected by the break-down and closure of the active plants. More electricity will be required during the time the plants are being built and readied for production. This electricity will be utilised at the cost of other customers of electricity.

        Disposal of the waste products of a nuclear power plant will be a knotty problem. The power plants that will be built under the Indo-US Nuclear Deal will have to comply with the stringent regulations laid down by the IAEA. This will cost dearly to India.

        The time taken to design and build a power plant will be over 12 years until which time the money being spent to build such plants will be locked up. The principal amount and the interest will accumulate to enormous proportions. The cost of protective clothing, safety equipments and security installations will be disproportionate due to the fear of radioactive material hazards and the potentiality of attack by terrorists. India will have to import all the equipment and also the personnel that operate them. The cost of appropriate housing and residential amenities for over 3000 employees working in one single plant will put the capital costs to unaffordable ranges for a poor India.

        On the other hand if India were to allow the local entrepreneurs and scientists to do research on how to obtain easy and cheap nuclear energy then we might find local answers to these local questions ourselves, albeit slowly. We can wait that long because building the plants using the technology from abroad is going to cost us beyond our means.





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