An Open Letter

An Open Letter to Prime Minister on Nuclear Power Policy

Dear Sir,

Few recent media reports on India’s electricity sector in general and on nuclear power sector in particular, have led to a sense of consternation among civil society groups.  The following news reports when diligently viewed from the perspective of overall societal welfare cannot but create a sense of consternation for the concerned citizens.
Kakodkar moots solar-like subsidy for nuclear power
Govt. gives administrative approval, financial sanction to build 12 nuclear power reactors

Whereas the true technical relevance and socio- economic viability of nuclear power for a country like India is increasingly been questioned by many credible reports/analysis from different parts of the world, it was with shock and dismay that the media report of the government’s approval for 12 additional reactors was received.  There is even a sense of despondency amongst those who have a modest knowledge of the issues associated with the nuclear power that the successive governments have continued with the unsubstantiated policy to expand nuclear power capacity despite so many reports and representations to the Union government on the non-viability of nuclear based power policy for the country.

Whereas, the professionals in energy and electricity sectors have been questioning as to why the successive governments have been continuing with the nuclear power policy despite the fact that nuclear power cannot have even a semblance of relevance to our power sector (as it has always been the case), and that the risks and costs (both direct and indirect) associated with it are unacceptably high for a poor and densely populated country like ours, it is shocking that solar like subsidy is being advocated for nuclear power.  One wonders whether we, as a society, have lost the ability to think rationally and in the overall interest of the country.

Whereas the nuclear power has always been propped up by various kinds of direct and indirect subsidies, it is unthinkable that its relevance to our society can be compared to that of renewable energy sources such as solar energy. Hence, any additional subsidy to nuclear power may not only be termed as preposterous by our society, but also seen as a kind of corrupt practice because only very few of tiny groups in a vast country may be benefited commercially by such a policy.  Whereas the solar and wind energy technologies have already been observed as the lowest cost energy technologies in many parts of the world even without subsidies, and their overall costs to the society is decreasing continuously, exactly the opposite is true in case of nuclear power in addition to the enormous risks and costs associated with the nuclear waste management and accidents.

It will be a disservice to our densely populated and poor communities to ignore the true costs and enormous risks associated with the nuclear power, and to continue to build additional nuclear reactors with or without additional direct subsidy.  It is hard to assume that our authorities believe that the calamitous scenario associated with Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters should be acceptable to our densely populated and poor communities.

When we consider the overall picture of the Indian power sector, where many official reports/ analysis/ statements indicate that there is a surplus generating capacity, and when we also consider the fact that there is a huge potential for the renewable energy sources at very low costs to the society, the irrationality of the decision to add many more nuclear reactors along with subsidies should become crystal clear.

Whereas the true relevance of nuclear power to the Indian power sector should become evident by the fact that its generation capacity has never been more than 5% of the total electricity generating capacity in the country during the last five decades, and that this percentage will be much less because of the occurrence of vast additions to the renewable energy capacity, the very issue of additions to conventional technology electricity sources in the country should be diligently reviewed in the context of surplus capacity in the country as reported in recent developments.

National Electricity Plan (Dec. 2016) - CEA confirms no new coal power required to power India's growth ambition
India to explore foreign markets for surplus power: Power Minister R K Singh
Intra-state network constraints affecting power supply in India: Power Secretary A K Bhalla

A modest understanding of the India power sector scenario in the context of these developments should indicate to any rational person that those who are advising the Union Power Minister and the Prime Minister on such energy related matters are either ignorant of all the related issues, or are guilty of not taking a holistic view of the welfare of our communities.

At a time when many countries are committed to moving towards renewable energy based economies, and when nuclear power is witnessing multiple credibility crises all over the world, a recent study by Stanford University has clearly shown that the energy needs (not just the electricity needs) of 139 countries, including India, can be satisfactorily and sustainably met by renewable energy sources (without nuclear power) at the lowest overall cost to the society, and with many additional benefits to our communities. There are many such credible studies from within and outside the country.

India should aim for 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030: Piyush Goyal
Meeting energy needs with renewables in 139 countries 
Tamil Nadu is India’s model for low-cost renewables
Action Plan for Comprehensive Renewable Energy Development in Tamil Nadu
​​Power Sector Road Map for Tamil Nadu – 2050
Integrated Power Policy

Whereas the present NDA govt. has been taking pride in claiming that it has not been associated with any corrupt practices, many sections of the society may deem it some sort of corruption to impose on our communities such high cost projects without informed consent of the society and without credible costs and benefits analysis. 

And without such a public acceptance, the continuation of nuclear power policy cannot be in the true interest of our communities, as it will lead to horrendous costs (both directly and indirectly) not only for the present generation but also for the future generations. The oft-repeated slogan "sub ke saath, sub ka vikaas" cannot be seen as credible enough without such efforts by all the concerned authorities to obtain public acceptance. In view of the fact that the concerned authorities have not cared to respond to serious and credible concerns expressed by CSOs, including societal leaders like Admiral Ramdas (retired Naval Chief), Dr. A K GopalaKrishnan (former Chairperson of AERB), Dr. E A S Sarma (former Union Power Secretary), it is hard to believe that anyone in your govt. is convinced of the objective behind the slogan "sub ke saath, sub ka vikaas".

The concerned CSOs, hence, would expect that the policies and practices of the entire power sector, including the policy on nuclear power, are thoroughly reviewed with the effective participation of all the stakeholders so as to make the proposed national energy policy techno-economically viable, socially acceptable ad environmentally sustainable.

With kind regards

Shankar Sharma
Power Policy Analyst
1026, 5th Main Road, E&F Block
Ramakrishna Nagara, Mysore, India - 570022
Phone: ++ 91 821 2462 333 / 94482 72503

Mar 09, 2018