Need to review safety at N-plants: Parikh

Last Updated: Apr 30, 2011, 14:13 PM IST

Rakesh Khar/Zee Research Group

India’s Integrated Energy Policy (IEP) expert group chief Kirit Parikh has said that there is a need to completely review the safety measures at India’s various nuclear energy plants in view of the Japan shock, but cautioned against steering away from the nuclear energy option.

The Parikh report in August 2006 had formalised the use of nuclear energy option to meet the spiralling energy requirements of the country. The report estimated India to produce 63,000 MW of nuclear power by 2032 from the current level of 4,780 MW or about 3 per cent of total power capacity.

Parikh told Zee News, “There indeed is room to review and upgrade safety arrangements at nuclear power sites in India. But in terms of the option it is wrong to say that nuclear power is more or less risky than coal. Coal has claimed no less life in India.”

He cautioned that there was need to understand that the nuclear power fallout is not like a nuclear bomb which comes without any warning. In case of any emergency in nuclear power, there would be warnings but yes the learning from Japan needs to be incorporated, he added.

Asked whether the Japan experience should lead to any change in the projections for nuclear energy option here, Parikh said, “The mix prescribed in 2006 is still valid. We have to understand that there has to be focus on renewable energy sources and globally there is an inclination towards solar and wind but in the Indian context it would be premature to say that these sources would become the primary drivers anytime soon. Yes, we need to examine these at length to ensure we optimize the output from these emerging formats.”

The 2006 Parikh expert committee on integrated energy policy, while formally acknowledging country’s need and dependence for nuclear energy, had admitted to “India being poorly endowed with Uranium”. The report had further said, “Available uranium supply can fuel only 10,000 MW of the Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR).”

On the cost advantage or disadvantage of the nuclear energy option in view of conflicting reports, Parikh said, “We prescribed a competitive energy market but that has not been followed. It is not a question of option A versus B. What we said was that there is a need for bringing about price competiveness.”

He lamented the unwillingness of the government to accept expert body’s recommendations in full. “The government has only acted in a piece meal system and free pricing remains elusive. It needs to move away from administered mentality.”

The 2006 expert body IEP report, however, had underscored the cost disadvantage. The IEP report warned, “India is extracting Uranium from extremely low grade ores (as low as 0.1% Uranium) compared to ores with up to 12-14% Uranium in certain resources abroad. This makes Indian nuclear fuel 2-3 times costlier than international supplies.”

The report, however, saw merit in use of thorium. Parikh, however, stuck to his earlier proposition that India cannot afford not to pursue the nuclear energy option. His 2006 report had concluded that “despite the many delays and disappointments in achieving set targets of nuclear energy development in the past, this is an option we cannot afford not to pursue”.