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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Why India should not embark on nuclear expansion – GREENPEACE

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Jaitapur nuclear project in India: The next Fukushima?
The French nuclear industry, supported by a group of European commercial banks, is lining up to build two European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs) in India. Jaitapur in Maharashtra state, the only part of the whole Indian coast officially classed as a ‘high risk’ earthquake zone2 has been chosen as the site.

The project has a planned second phase that would add four more reactors, becoming the largest nuclear power plant in the world. Despite the EPR being celebrated by the nuclear industry as the safest reactor in the world, the only EPRs under construction reveal serious problems. The reactor design itself also has several alarming parallels to Fukushima nuclear power plant that continues to be a major disaster following the earthquake and subsequent tsunami of 11 March, 2011.Not only is Jaitapur to be built on the coastline, in a high-risk earthquake area, but it is using the similar light water reactor technology that vitally depends on active cooling for weeks even after the reactor is stopped. Its design has apparent weaknesses that make it vulnerable to the same problems that caused the Fukushima accident. And, as proposed, the project would be a whole fleet of very large reactors that could lead to multiple failures and radiation releases. Nuclear energy is not only the most controversial and hazardous form of energy generation, it is also one of the most expensive. To raise the many billions of euros needed to build even a single nuclear reactor, utility companies rely heavily on banks and other financial market players. If the deal goes ahead, India will be left with spiraling costs and an energy option that won’t meet its energy needs. It will seriously increase nuclear hazards, including contaminating the environment and the danger of deadly nuclear waste that has no safe solution. The nuclear industry has spent the past decade trying to convince the public and decision makers that, despite its downsides, it will help tackle the climate crisis. But what it offers in reality is an industry that delivers too little, too late, is too expensive and – as we see in Japan these days – is too vulnerable and too dangerous.
Most decision makers and investors talk about sustainability and corporate social responsibility, yet the entire nuclear cycle blatantly contradicts this. Radioactive contamination routinely occurs throughout the fuel chain, from uranium mining to processing, reactor operation to the management of nuclear waste. A severe accident of a typical pressurised water nuclear reactor, due to technical or human failure, could affect many millions of people, causing tens of thousands of victims and forcing the evacuation of areas as large as Belgium. The nuclear industry has spent the past decade trying to convince the public and decision makers that, despite its downsides, nuclear power is needed to tackle the climate crisis. The industry promised to have learned from past disasters, and that it would offer a clean, safe, cheap and reliable source of energy. None of these claims is true. The 2010 International Energy Agency (IEA) energy scenario clearly shows that, even if the world were to build 1,300 new reactors and quadruple nuclear power generation by 2050, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by less than 4%. Given the long planning and construction schedules required, this would come far too late to meet the imperative to significantly decline greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and thus prevent climate chaos. In addition, implementing the IEA scenario would require $10 trillion US dollars for reactor construction, massively increase the amount of nuclear waste that we and future generations will have to deal with, and create enormous proliferation hazards. A single reactor typically produces several hundred kilograms of plutonium every year – an amount sufficient for dozens of nuclear of nuclear weapons.

Site for Jaitapur nuclear power plant - GREENPEACE

Key Words: GREENPEACE, high risk’ earthquake zone, Fukushima nuclear power plant, plutonium
Credit: Text and image in original- GREENPEACE

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