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AP1000 reactors injurious to India’s N-health?

Saturday, 06 July 2013 | Kumar Chellappan | CHENNAI
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The nuclear reactor industry in the United States of America is on cloud nine following the success of State Secretary John Kerry’s recent visit to India. Kerry’s Mission to New Delhi was to sell nuclear reactors built by Westinghouse Electric Company to India. He completed the mission with élan. It could be understood from the words of the top bosses of the WEC. “Secretary Kerry’s efforts to move discussions forward with an announced goal of reaching commercial agreement in the September timeframe to support licensing and site development of AP1000 reactors in India are proving to be invaluable,” Westinghouse President and CEO Danny L Roderick told Energy Daily, a venerated e-newsletter.

The Energy Daily quotes top honchos of US nuclear industry lauding the US administration’s efforts to push through their products in India and other countries. “Efforts of a range of United States Government officials and agencies in helping Westinghouse and other US-based companies pursue business in the global commercial nuclear energy market is paying off. John Kerry’s visit to India is the most recent example of this support,” the e-newsletter said in its recent issue.

Westinghouse and Nuclear Power Company of India Limited (NPCIL) had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) last year to negotiate an Early Works Agreement (EWA) supporting future construction of AP1000 nuclear power plants at the Mithivirdi site in Gujarat. The finalisation of the contract will help generate 200,000 direct and indirect jobs in the USA even as the agreement will sound the death bell of India’s Three-Stage Nuclear Energy Programme conceptualised and visualised by Dr Homi Bhabha, the father figure of India’s nuclear programme.

“Imported nuclear reactors never had any place in Dr Bhabha’s Three-State Nuclear Programme. He knew very well that India has to chart its own course in harnessing nuclear energy as it did not have uranium resources of its own. That’s is why Dr Bhabha prepared a brilliant nuclear programme in which imported uranium fuel would power the country’s indigenously developed reactors. The next state (second stage) was breeder reactors using mixed oxide developed from the spent fuel collected from the first generation reactors and thorium, which is abundantly available in India. The third and last state was thorium-based nuclear reactors which use the vast thorium resources in the country,” said CR Neelakantan, a nuclear reactor engineer-turned- anti-nuclear activist.

He said the import of Westinghouse built AP 1000 nuclear reactors would make India a perpetual slave of the US nuclear industry. “Our time tested pressurised heavy water reactor (PHWR) programme will come to a standstill. The 2008 Indo-US nuclear agreement  has already sabotaged the prospect of the 500 MW Fast Breeder Reactor at Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu which should have been commissioned in 2009,” said Neelakantan.

The US nuclear reactor industry is in a state of paralysis because of lack of demand from domestic sector. Stringent waste management and safety regulations like the Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2013 has made it mandatory for reactor operators to have repositories  for storing nuclear waste. The Federal Nuclear Regulator in the USA on August 7, 2012, froze the licenses issued by the Government to nearly 30 nuclear power plants following verification that they do not possess geological repositories to store nuclear waste as mandated by the US Supreme Court. This has made nuclear power an unviable business in the US. Hence the US federal Government is on a mission to push such reactors to countries like India. It may be remembered that the USA   had declared India as an international pariyah following the 1998 Pokhran Neclear test conducted as per the orders of the NDA Government led by AB Vajpayee.

The UPA Government led by Manmohan Singh surrendered the sovereignty of the country to the US by signing the Civil Nuclear Deal with which India has become a vassal of the US. Manmohan Singh, on the verge of completing his second and last tenure as Prime Minister is in the process of driving the last nail in the coffin of the country’s home-grown nuclear industry.

Imported nuclear reactors had not augured well for India and this has been proved by the dilly-dallying over the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant. Though the agreement for the reactor was signed in 1987, it is miles away from commissioning notwithstanding the thumping of chests both by Singh and Narayanasamy, his oracle, in the PMO.

Even if India agrees to buy the Westinghouse reactors, the selection of site, the water for cooling  the reactors and setting up of desalination plants for the same are issues which may take years to decide. Meanwhile, works for the first-ever thorium powered reactor has started in Indonesia and Chile. Since thorium powered reactor technology has been standardised and it costs a fraction of what it takes to build conventional nuclear reactor, what Manmohan Singh does is a kind of gambling which would lead to the destruction of the indigenous nuclear energy programme.

 
 
 
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