India’s nuclear programme dates back to 1948 when it was felt that if India was to remain abreast with the world it must develop atomic energy. In due course, India’s nuclear programme led to two nuclear tests, Pokhran I (1974, which failed) and Pokhran II (1998) that made India, the land of ahimsa, part of nuclear club of nations. Before this India all along maintained that it was pursuing a peaceful nuclear programme, when actually the reverse was true. Today, notwithstanding over six decades of sustained and lavish government support (in 2002-3 Department of Atomic Energy was allocated Rs 33.5 billions as compared to Rs 4.7 billion for development of non-conventional sources of power), nuclear power amounts to just 3310MW, less than 3% of country’s total generation capacity. Despite the huge outlays and little nuclear generated electricity to show for it, and a nation whose 40% of population lives below the poverty line, India continues to push for more investment into the nuclear sector.
Apart from the non-viable nature of the project, there is also the looming worry about the nuclear waste that such plants would produce. Where will the government dump it? And who’ll bear the cost of nuclear disaster, if one occurs? Scientists have also pointed out that installation of centralized nuclear reactor or thermal plant and extending the grid to cover distant villages or towns would be an inefficient way of providing electricity. Such communities would be better served by distribution of renewable energy systems based on number of different technologies and sources – micro-hydel plants, windmills, solar energy and biomass based power. It bears to keep in mind that effects of Chernobyl disaster were felt up to the Atlantic coast, every country between Ukraine and Wales was affected by the radiation released.