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India’s Energy Options and Strategies post Fukushima

with 3 comments

Anil Kakodkar, erstwhile head of the Department of Atomic Energy talked about India’s energy options in light of the Fukushima disaster at TIFR. Unfortunately the slides are not online, so I’ll summarize from memory. I may come back and annotate this after some background reading.

The first part of Mr. Kakodkar’s argument is the following:

India needs to provide around 5000 Watts per person in order to reach its human development goals. This implies that 40% of the increase in energy generation around the world will have to be in India. He summarized the availability of coal, oil and renewable sources to argue that most of these are not long-term options. His argument is that in the long term India will have to depend on solar and some form of nuclear energy generation.

As far as I understand, this was the logic that persuaded the UPA I government to enter into nuclear negotiations with the USA. It is not clear from the public record if the argument originated with Mr. Kakodkar and the DAE establishment, or whether they were convinced of it by someone else. Probably the analysis is due to the DAE.

Media reports of the time dealt only with the coalition politics of the UPA I government, and said nothing about the policy analysis on which the drama rested. It was good to finally hear the argument in detail.

The other part of the talk was about DAE’s Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AWHR) as the ultimate safe and non-proliferating long term solution to India’s energy needs. Mr. Kakodkar explained:

The Advanced Heavy Water Reactor is supposed to be safer than other reactors because it has been designed to run cool and cannot suffer meltdown. It is also designed to be safe against deliberate sabotage, power outage, and gives operators a margin of up to three days to take ameliorative action in case of problems.

These are all technical points which need further understanding to evaluate.

During the discussion on safety Mr. Kakodkar made an interesting point. He claimed that risk, defined as cost of failure times probability of failure is small for nuclear reactors but this does not convince people to use nuclear technology. His solution is to bound the worst case outcome. That last conclusion sounds very reasonable as policy. The questions would then devolve to whether some proposed solution does have such a bounded worst case outcome.


Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

June 24, 2011 at 3:13 pm

3 Responses

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  1. […] biggest alignment of interests is in the energy sector. As Anil Kakodkar has pointed out, if India’s developmental goals are to be fulfilled, we need to generate about 10 Kilowatts […]

  2. […] government works on the assumption that India needs about 5 Kilowatts of power per person. That is enough to run industries and households to support a population which is middle class by […]

  3. […] good part of the energy supplies need to be distributed as electrical power. As Anil Kakodkar had pointed out, if India’s Millennium Development Goals are to be fulfilled, we need to generate about 10 […]

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