New Delhi, Mar 5 IBNS | 9 months ago

In an attempt to evaluate the global nuclear energy trends and issues, three years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS) recently organized a national seminar, 'Nuclear Power

The seminar was held at Air Force Auditorium, Subroto Park, here on Mar 3.

While presenting the introductory remarks, Air Marshal Vinod Patney SYSM PVSM AVSM VrC (retd.) Director General, CAPS, highlighted the fact that while most think tanks work on nuclear strategy, CAPS is one of the few think tanks in India who also concentrates on nuclear power.

He highlighted the need to carefully examine the nuclear energy scenario after Fukushima and the lessons learnt from them.

This was followed by the inaugural address delivered by R Chidambaram, Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India.

He stressed on the concept of safety culture, and said, "India's good track record in safe nuclear operations is due to its safety culture."

On nuclear waste management, Chidambaram said, "Waste management is a priority for the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC)."

Also, he laid stress on the importance of renewable energy.

Highlighting the importance of nuclear power for India, Chidambaram said, "For developed country like Germany, nuclear power is icing on the cake, but for developing countries like India, nuclear power is bread and butter."

The seminar was divided into three sessions.

The first session was based on the theme 'Nuclear Power: Global Trends', chaired by Prof R B Grover, Director, Homi Bhabha National Institute. The key panelist were: Dr. Stuti Banerjee, Research Fellow, ICWA; Hina Pandey, Research Associate, CAPS and Dr. Manpreet Sethi, Senior Fellow, CAPS.

Dr. Stuti Banerjee spoke on the emerging nuclear trends in Japan.

Raising concern over the Fukushima nuclear accident, Dr. Banerjee, discussed the impact of Fukushima disaster on the economy, environment, public opinion and politics.

She highlighted the rise in Japan's oil imports, and the consequent strain on the exchequer, as a consequence of shutting down of nuclear plants.

Hina Pandey, spoke about the nuclear power trends in the USA over the last three years.

She argued that the Fukushima accident was less influential in deciding the future course of US nuclear power industry as the country after some safety reviews is going ahead with its domestic production of nuclear power.

Dr. Manpreet Sethi elaborated on the nuclear trends occurring in China.

While highlighting China's current plans of ambitiously expanding nuclear power, Dr. Sethi described, China as the "current nuclear poster boy."

She also pointed that despite being an authoritarian state, Beijing could still mobilize public in favour of its ambitious nuclear plans owing to the unique system of decentralization where party cadres could work at local level to achieve national targets.

Further, she threw light on the changes which occurred after Fukushima disasters, like: there was a temporary suspension of new approvals for nuclear power plants; institution of the national inspection group was set up and a new safety plan Oct 2012 was implemented.

Also post Fukushima, Dr. Sethi emphasized at the growing awareness in middle class regarding nuclear safety.

This was followed by the question and answer round.

While answering to the question of the what the three countries, China, Japan and USA on reprocessing of the spent fuel, PK Wattal, Director, Nuclear Recycle Group, BARC said, "China has learned the importance of reprocessing, Japan is involved in it and USA too has the technology though is not doing so right now."

The second session revolved around the theme, 'Nuclear Expansion in India: Concerns and Challenges.'

It was chaired by Ashok Parthasarathi, Former Secretary, Government of India. The key panelists were: R B Grover, Director, Homi Bhabha National Institute, Dr Sitakanta Mishra, Research Fellow, CAPS and Amb Sheel Kant Sharma, Former Secretary General SAARC.

R B Grover, Director spoke on the Nuclear Liability Issues.

He elaborated on the various articles pertaining to nuclear liability in India, including article 35, 46, 17 and 17 (a).

Further on, increasing the burn rate and cutting reprocessing costs, Grover suggested the use of Slightly Enriched Uranium (SEU) in Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR).

While speaking on the future, Grover said, "Projects will be set up based on designs developed by Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) or Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd (BHAVINI) or in technological cooperation with foreign vendors and not on turnkey basis."

Dr. Sitakanta Mishra spoke on Public Acceptance.

While giving details of the existing public perception on nuclear issues, Dr. Mishra said, "The world has 15000 reactor years of safe commercial nuclear operations and only three major accidents have taken place. Though the death rate per KWH energy produced in the nuclear sector is comparatively lower than any other source of energy, however the public has a surprisingly negative attitude towards nuclear matters."

He further suggested that the gap between the scientific community and the public should be bridged by innovative methods of public engagement.

He added, "The present situation provides us with a 'challenging opportunity' for the nuclear establishment to reach to the public and address their concern patiently."

Amb Sheel Kant Sharma spoke on India's 'Nuclear Technology: Answering the Critics'.

Amb Sharma pointed that nuclear power in India has been subject to scrutiny since the start of the programme.

Also, there have been critics of the Indian nuclear programme.

Besides, Amb Sharma made an extensive review of M.V. Ramana's book, 'The Power of Promise' and questioned the arguments and facts on the downside of the Indian nuclear programme in it.

The third and the last session of the seminar focused on the theme, 'Future Horizons for Nuclear Power: How Near, How Far'.

It was chaired by Amb Arundhati Ghose, India's Former Permanent Representative at CD. The key panelists were: PK Wattal, Director, Nuclear Recycle Group, BARC and Dheeraj Bora, Director, Institute for Plasma Research (IPR), DAE.

PK Wattal spoke of Waste Management Concerns.

Wattal said that, "Closed fuel cycle is beneficial as most of the waste can be recycled and the use of thorium fuel gives very less waste."

Further, he suggested that, "Because of the availability of poor uranium resources the three stage power program would use the abundant thorium resources available in the country." While elaborating on India's current position on spend fuel management, he said, "India is the second country in the world to have vitrification process."

Dheeraj Bora spoke on Fusion Technology.

While elaborating on the advantages of the fusion, Bora brought out the following points: there is no risk of major accidents, less nuclear waste and no green house emission.

Further, while highlighting at the advancements in fusion technology, Bora said, "The fusion technology is rapidly progressing and the performance is doubling every eighteen months."

Besides, while elaborating on the India's continuous endeavour to gain technological know how in nuclear fusion, Bora said, "India is contributing immensely to the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project."

According to the officials, the seminar was another success in the Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS) continuous endeavor to provide focused research and analyses on international and national security issues in general and nuclear issues in particular.

(Posted on 05-03-2014)

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