Journalist | Writer | Analyst
After interviewing others, it’s nice when somebody wants to interview you! The India office of the Heinrich Boll Foundation — the foundation run by the Greens in Germany — approached me recently to talk about the Nuclear Suppliers Group and India, The result is a lengthy interview where I have held forth on the implications of the deal for the non-proliferation regime, India’s energy security, relations with the United States and India’s ‘nuclearised’ future…
You can read the interview here.
Hi to add my two bits of quibbling.. I first heard that Nuclear Energy is renewable through George W’s speech. I ignored it as a Bushism but now it looks like there is more to it than that. I think renewables like geothermal, wind, solar and Hydro basically do not irreversibly consume/change a natural resource to produce energy. (this not to mean they are inexahustible . After all even the sun has birth and death)They exploit a natural phenomenon. Obviously Nuclear does not qualify for that. Fission might breed more fissile material but does destroy a part of the non fissile part into actinides. Similarly, even fusion finally changes isotopes of lighter elements into heavier ones. Hope somebody enlightens me on this…
Mr. Varadarajan,>>1. Not with an intention to nitpick, Nuclear energy is not limited to Fission. It inculdes Fusion, a reaction which powers the Sun and solar energy from Sun is considered “renewable”. India is a member of ITER.>>In this sense, “renewable” energy means “unlimited” or “abundant”.>>It is in this context that Nuclear energy which employs fission can also be described as “renewable” energy.>>FBR which breeds the fertile material (U238 and Th232)material into fissile material like (U235,U239, U233, Pu239) not only streches the reserves as you put it, but also makes the raw material “abundant”. Sea water contains many times more Uranium than in the land, just to tell you how “abundant” it is. BARC is doing research in the extraction of Uranium and other rare metals from Sea and working on a prototype.>>As i see, PM didn’t overblown anything on Nuclear Energy. As of now, viability of producing energy from these route is questioned but not about the “abudance” of that energy>>2. I’m interested in replying to your one more comment made somewhere else on PM’s remark on testing and signing the CTBT even if it enters into force.>>Yes, it is very saleable the idea that once US, China ratifies CTBT, India will follow suit. In reality, i think it is naive. In current and every changing Geo-political circumstances, if Iran bust the cracker, will Israel or other Arab countries sit quiet. If Pakistan observes diwali in its neighbourhood, will it keep its silence. If Pakistan goes in that direction what will India do. There are lot of IF in India signing the CTBT. So I dont think, PM made off the cuff remark on CTBT.>>I love reading your every minutes of happening on this nuclear deal and your other analysis on this issue.>>regards
It depends on how you define ‘renewable’. If you consider the restrictive definition of renewal by natural phenomena only, then you could say that. Otherwise I do not see the difference. The “renewable” property of nuclear energy is, in fact, the most important poperty of nuclear energy without which perhaps it is not worthwhile going into this option given its major problems of waste disposal. The renewable option allows lot of the harmful actinides to burn along with plutonium. In that sense it is one of the prime advantages of nuclear energy.
Anon — Thanks for your comment. The plutonium-thorium economy certainly stretches the life of uranium resources immeasurably but that still does not make nuclear power “renewable”. Nuclear power may still have other advantages compared to other sources, but ‘renewability’ is not one of them.
Dear Mr. Varadarajan,>>The PM has committed a lot of blunders with regard to the nuclear energy programme in India, most notably his slashing of funds for the department of atomic energy during his term as finance minister in the 1990s. But on this remark of his on August 15, he is right on the mark. Clearly your reply suggests that your imagination does not stretch very far. Nuclear energy is most certainly renewable, not uranium as uranium but uranium as plutonium if you reprocess the spent fuel and go into the plutonium/uranium breeder stage and with greater efficiency if you go further with plutonium-uranium-thorium breeders and then on to the next stage of uranium/thorium breeders. It is quite late in the day that the US is discovering the greater benefits of burning plutonium in breeders over its fears of proliferation especially in the new class of proliferation resistant fuel cycles.