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Should India consider phasing out nuclear power?

Introduction:

  • Germany has shut down its last nuclear power plant, while France is struggling to maintain its aging reactors.
  • As solar and wind power become more popular, questions arise about whether nuclear power is still relevant in a fossil-free future, particularly in India.

Globally, what is the outlook for nuclear power?

  • After the Ukraine war, nuclear power is seeing a renaissance, even in Europe and the U.S.
  • China has been surging ahead on nuclear power, while South Korea has committed to increasing its share of nuclear power to 30% by 2030.
  • Japan, despite the Fukushima accident, is restarting its reactors to reduce its dependence on expensive imported coal and natural gas.
  • The UK has stated that without scaling up nuclear power, it won’t be possible to decarbonize the electricity sector.

Is nuclear power still relevant when solar and wind power are becoming more popular?

  • While some countries are shifting towards renewables, nuclear power is still necessary for providing firm, dispatchable power.
  • Wind and solar power are intermittent or variable, and batteries are expensive and have environmental impacts.
  • Using an asset until the end of its life is best for the environment, unless a viable alternative can replace it entirely.

What are the challenges facing nuclear power?

  • Safety concerns, nuclear proliferation, and other issues still hinder public acceptance.
  • The nuclear industry is moving towards passive safety designs that can control temperature and waste-heat even if power fails.
  • Cost remains an issue, but new designs like small modular reactors may address this.
  • Nuclear liability continues to be a sticking point in implementing new nuclear plants.

What about radioactivity from spent fuel?

  • The amount of fuel required for a nuclear power plant is much less than that required for a coal plant.
  • Ash from coal plants contains heavy metals that can harm water sources, while spent fuel can be safely stored.
  • Nuclear liability is a concern for suppliers of nuclear plant components.

Conclusion:

  • Nuclear power remains an important part of the energy mix for many countries.
  • While challenges like safety and cost need to be addressed, nuclear power can provide firm, dispatchable power that is necessary for a stable grid.
  • The decision to phase out nuclear power should only be made after considering viable alternatives and ensuring that asset life is maximized for environmental reasons.

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