Debunking Some Common Nuclear Myths

  • Myth: Nuclear power is not safe.

Fact: Statistical evidence confirms that nuclear energy is one of the safest ways to produce electricity. As of October 2021, 441 nuclear reactors are operating in 30 countries around the world with only three major accidents (Statista). In India too, with 23 reactors operating and about 350 reactor-years of operation, there has been only one incidence of level-2 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES). This has been free of any radiation fatalities from nuclear power plants. The fear that a Fukushima type of accident can happen in India is not based on scientific facts. The seismic and tsunamigenic conditions in India are totally different from those prevailing in Japan. Nevertheless, not showing any complacency and overconfidence, DAE is taking a number of measures to further strengthen the safety of its NPPs particularly in a scenario of beyond-design-basis accidents.

  • Myth: Highly radioactive nuclear waste is a problem without solution.

Nuclear power is the only commercial energy-producing system that takes care of its entire waste. The amount of waste produced by nuclear power reactors is very small relative to other thermal electricity generation technologies. Nuclear waste can be treated as a resource, a great deal of radioisotopes are extracted from it and used in other industries. If compared to other toxic industrial waste nuclear waste is neither particularly hazardous nor hard to manage. In the future, the accelerator-driven subcritical systems (ADSS) will offer the option of incineration of long-lived fission products into lighter short-lived radioisotopes, eliminating the need for short-term storage.

  • Myth: Nuclear power is very costly.

Indigenous nuclear power is very cost-competitive on an average cost basis. Nuclear power tariffs are front-loaded and tend to reduce with time. The economics of nuclear power appears far more attractive than it did previously. Moreover, nuclear energy becomes economically even more attractive if all energy technologies were to internalize their respective external costs. The cost of safety, waste disposal, and decommissioning are included in the price of nuclear electricity. In the future, whenever the much talked about carbon tax becomes a reality nuclear energy will become one of the most economic sources of electricity.

Published by Amit K Shah

Nuclear Engineer. Junior Research Fellow at National Institute of Advanced Studies.

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