Flogging the dead nuclear horse

Posted by: Bittu Sahgal on

One day the world's misguided economists and nucleocrats will share us what they hope to achieve by building so many nuclear plants, when there is not enough uranium to run the world's existing 500+ reactors for more than 40 years. As more get built (to "solve" the climate crisis) the date by which global uranium supplies get exhausted moves forward. Thorium? Untried? Untested? If it was all that hot (pun intended) a solution, it would be India's fuel of choice already.

Then we have that other inconvenient problem -- the gestation period. Solutions to climate change, involving solar and wind, may be expensive, but they solve the problem elegantly and speedily, particularly for villagers off the grid, whose per-capita carbon consumption is used in global fora to justify India's use of more and still more coal, oil and gas for our carbon-guzzling cities. Backing nuclear power plants as a climate solution for today (it takes a decade to reliably build a nuclear reactor) is like investing in a foal that has not yet been born in the hope that it might win next week's Derby.

The less said about radiation waste the better. But know this, more carbon is put up into the atmosphere to build a new nuclear plant than it can save in its lifetime. But proponents need to figure out the carbon footprint of uranium mining, building power plant infrastructure, caring for a nuclear plant and its containments, running back up systems for plant shut downs, waste handling and... before we forget... decomissioning.

Of course nuclear power makes nice bombs. All of us have finite lives and there is that much we can do to correct fatal flaws in people's ambitions. But airports built below sea level that will flood the properties of lakhs of people every year? Ports that harm endangered marine turtle habitats? Dams that drown the forests, which we need to regulate climate and provide water? Mining that wipes out forests that protect us against the worst impacts of floods, droughts and climate vagaries? How shall we kill ourselves? Let us count the ways!