According to reports, contrary to public perception that older methods of energy generation are safer compared to nuclear energy, data proves that the fatalities per kilowatt-hour are least in nuclear energy “even accounting for Chernobyll,” said Anil Kakodkar, former chairman of Atomic Energy Commission of India.
Delivering a lecture on “Challenges of promoting a green economy” at the International Centre of Goa, Dona Paula, on Tuesday, Kakodkar said that the only other energy form that compares favourably with nuclear energy in the safety aspect is solar energy.
Kakodkar drew an analogy to drive home his point. People widely believe that travel by car is the safest, by train carries a higher risk and by air is the riskiest. But in terms of deaths, data proves that travel by plane is the safest and by car the riskiest, Kakodkar said.
Arguing his point further in defense of nuclear energy, Kakodkar said that environmental radiation that people are exposed to even in normal rooms is 100 times higher than the radiation at the fence post of a nuclear plant. People are fearful of nuclear energy because they first learnt of it through nuclear weapons.
Society will come to terms with nuclear energy but it will take time, Kakodkar said.
The former chairman of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre also said that thorium and solar energy, both of which are green, are the only answers to India’s energy needs. India needs to make the transition from fossil energy to green energy quickly because at the present level of energy consumption, existing resources like coal will not last long. Though potential for hydro power is huge, it will contribute only about 7% of India’s galloping energy needs.
Kakodkar cited some opportunities in the use of renewable energy. He suggested the use of standalone solar-powered motors for agriculture which are presently fed from grids. This will ensure they work only when the sun shines and prevent water wastage. Once the grid is freed from these non-paying consumers, electricity tariff will reduce and benefit the economy.
He also proposed the idea of using solar energy for lighting in rural areas. If this is done, not only will India save on huge subsidies given on kerosene, but emissions polluting the atmosphere will also be eliminated.
Kakodkar had a wry observation to make on India and Indians. “We Indians are a great people, full of ideas. But the ideas don’t translate into reality because we lack the eco-systems. Put the same fellow in the US and he does wonders and then I say that fellow was not as bright as I,” said Kakodkar, adding that we need to create eco-systems in education, in government and in industry.
Dismissing the perceived problem of garbage, Kakodkar said that if garbage is segregated at source, recycled or treated as applicable, it can generate methane, manure, etc. “There is no waste. Every waste is a resource,” said Kakodkar.