2017-11-06
Focus on storage technology, renewables, urges expert

M.V. Ramana says nuclear energy is fraught with risks and is expensive 

India would do well to invest in research and development of storage technologies instead of trying to build more nuclear plants, leading physicist M.V. Ramana has said even as he criticised both the UPA and the NDA governments for their attempts at diluting the liability of nuclear plant suppliers in case of a nuclear disaster.

In an interview to The Hindu, Dr. Ramana, physicist and lecturer at Princeton University, said that the storage technology had gone through lots of changes in the past few years and there was a big likelihood of costs coming down in the near future.

“We (India) pour a lot of money into fast breeder reactors (FBRs). FBRs are a failed technology. We have known that for 50 years. Yet, we are spending thousands of crores on the technology. Some of that money can go into R&D on how to use better storage,” Dr. Ramana said.

“It is good to invest in R&D; some breakthroughs are possible. It’s still a young field. Lots of research needs to be done,” Dr. Ramana, who is a joint recipient of the American Physical Society’s Leo Szilard Award in 2014, said.

Dr. Ramana said nuclear power had never been economical. “Today, renewables are cheaper than nuclear energy,” he said adding that investments in grids with an eye on the future were necessary.

Dr. Ramana, who is also a member of the International Panel on Fissile Materials, said nuclear energy presented further problems over the handling of nuclear waste. “Radioactive waste is a very-difficult-to-deal-with form of waste. That is why you don’t have even a single operating geological repository for storing nuclear waste anywhere in the world,” he said.

He, however, added that if India made a case for nuclear energy, “the best thing to do is to build the heavy water reactors which the Nuclear Power Corporation is experienced with, and therefore, knows how to deal with. Don’t go into these experimental technologies that you have no control over.”

On the liability cap during nuclear disasters being diluted, he asked why nuclear power should be an exception to the Indian liability law when “in every other field, we would not accept an indemnification of the manufacturer. If you buy a car, for example, and there’s a series of accidents because of a flaw, you always have the right to ask the company to compensate. Why should nuclear power be an exception?”

“The Manmohan Singh and Modi governments have done a series of things to undermine the spirit of the Liability Act as passed by Parliament. There is no good reason for India to walk back on its liability clause. In fact, it should have been much stronger. The companies that sell reactors should be held accountable for any problem that arises,” he said.

Source- The Hindu