Big events always draw big attention. The present Japanese nuclear crisis is drawing a lot of attention worldwide. It’s also causing a major review of the pros and cons of nuclear power. People around the world are debating whether the world needs nuclear power at all. Everyone is forgetting that all modes of power generation carry their own risks. That an earthquake of this scale....followed by a Tsunami can damage any power plant. In
also, there is much debate on nuclear power. And as usually happens in India , the media debates are senseless and driven by an urge to sensationalize the issue. No meaningful is presented and no real analysis is done. We must take care that we don’t let public policy be affected because of one freak accident.....no matter what its scale. Policy decisions should not be taken in times of crises. India
The fact is that all forms of energy production are dangerous to people:
Coal based power plants: They are the biggest polluters on earth. Every single minute, they spew out tonnes and tonnes of toxic fumes. One-third of the carbon dioxide, 40% of the mercury, one-fourth of the nitrogen oxides and two-thirds of the sulphur dioxide released in the environment is on account of coal based power plants. These gases cause direct damage to humans in the form of heart diseases, asthama, cancer, lung damage and the like. They also cause tremendous indirect damage through the phenomenon of Global warming. As we know now, global warming can destroy the entire planet in a matter of a few hundred years if we don’t stop damaging the environment. But somehow we feel alright about coal based power plants; maybe because we don’t see the damage to the environment on a daily basis. It’s a slow degradation and that’s not such a bother to us. Further, coal is going to vanish in 200 years. What happens then? Coal plants are also prone to massive damage in times of earthquakes. The
Tennessee Valley coal power plant suffered a huge calamity in Dec 2008 when its holding pond was breached.....it led to 2.2 million pounds of hazardous waste flooding East Tennessee. Clearly, our future power strategy cannot be based on coal based power plants alone.
Hydro power plants: Without doubt, hydropower is a clean source of power. However, hydro electric power plants also cannot survive earthquakes of the type that hit
. If a hydroelectric plant was destroyed by an earthquake, it would lead to severe flooding and a huge number of deaths. Most hydroelectric plants are located in the mountains, where there is a higher probability of earthquakes happening. Besides, the need for huge reservoirs leads to flooding of millions of acres of land around a hydropower plant. Any breach in the reservoir can cause huge flooding putting local human population at risk. Besides, there is a limit to how much power can be generated in Japan using this method. Worldwide, only about 19% of the power is generated from hydroelectric plants and this number cannot significantly go up. Hydroelectric power plants are also very expensive..... India
That leaves nuclear power: It’s biggest advantage is that it generates power without polluting the environment. It’s touted as the solution to Global warming. Nuclear power plans are in reality also less prone to accidents. The last major accident was several decades ago.
happened in 1986 and 3-mile in 1979. Besides, nuclear power can be produced in abundance. Much of the ire that people have towards nuclear power is because of the confusion of nuclear power with nuclear weapons......the imagery of Chernobyl Hiroshima and is still fresh in our minds. Nuclear radiation is another thing that spreads panic.....it’s effects are long term and we have seen the impact on the Japanese after the bombs in Nagasaki Hiroshima and . But in reality, accidents in nuclear power plants are rare. Most nuclear plants have very high safety standards and have multiple levels of back-ups. What happened in Nagasaki was rare.....the plant could have withstood the 9 magnitude earthquake if that had been the only problem. But it could not stand up to the earthquake + Tsunami combination. Japan
Besides these three major forms of power technology, there is really nothing much that can produce power on a large scale. Renewable forms of power generation (solar, wind, tidal etc) are simply not developed enough to be used commercially yet.
The real truth is that we will panic and change our nuclear policy. Politics and inane media will take over as usual. Shrieking news anchors will conduct meaningless debates and make the government panic. Most likely now, Jaitapur will be shelved. Not only Jaitapur.....all nuclear power plants will be put on hold for many years. No one.....I repeat no one.....will think about where the additional power we need will come from. And many years later, we will all complain when are power cuts will continue. The same shrieking news anchors will haul up the government – this time maybe for not considering nuclear power. What we need is sanity. What we don’t need is panic. Let’s see what happens now.....