Response to Dr Sarma's letter to Secretary DAE

Sanjeev Ghotge

Every public-spirited citizen of India must take serious note of Dr Sarma's letter to Secretary DAE. Apart from the safety aspects of the French reactor designs, it may also be noted that the cost of nuclear electricity from Jaitapur, as calculated by Suvrat Raju and MV Ramana works out to around ₹15 per kWh, at a time when thousands of megawatts of solar power are currently being negotiated at ₹2.75-3.00 per kWh and wind power in the range ₹ 3.4-3.5 per kwh or four to five times cheaper. Moreover, as has been repeatedly pointed out all over the world, the costs of nuclear electricity do not include future decommissioning costs and disposal costs of radioactive nuclear wastes which also constitute safety costs for society. While the costs of solar and wind power had not yet been established through reverse bidding 5-6 years ago, this is no longer the case. There is no longer an economic case for upto 60,000 mw of nuclear power which is four to five times more expensive than renewable power. Raju and Ramanas' paper are available on the internet (Suvrat Raju and MV Ramana 2013: Cost of electricity from Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant; Economic and Political Weekly Vol XLVIII nos. 26 & 27, June 29,2013) for concerned readers to convince themselves.

There are many implications of adding on 60,000 mw of very high cost nuclear power to the electricity grid, which involve the future performance of the economy as a whole. It has been historically established and globally acknowledged in the economics literature related to energy that there is an inverse relationship between energy prices and economic growth. Whenever oil prices have risen globally, the growth rate of the global economy has suffered a setback, sometimes even resulting in global recession. The same relationship holds for electricity pricing within a national economy: the higher the price of electricity, the greater the depressing effect on all sectors of economic production - industry, agriculture, services, transportation and even households, resulting in price rise across the entire economy. In effect then, the addition of 60,000 mw of high cost electricity will keep the growth of the economy depressed for upto 30-35 years into the future, being the lifetime of the nuclear projects. This will be a huge setback to all the efforts to reduce poverty across the country and to carry the country across the threshold of becoming a moderately prosperous middle-income country. In effect, this single decision is akin to the country shooting itself in the foot where it's future is concerned. As indicated earlier, now that lower cost alternatives from solar and wind electricity are available and can be deployed much faster, the DAE's resolve to continue along this path of self- inflicted damage is questionable and needs to be questioned by all concerned citizens.

Sep 17, 2019

Sanjeev Ghotge [email protected]

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