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Nuclear issues in Japan – will this change the situation in India regarding more nuclear plants ?




The nuclear industry in India has been a very closed area, with the national secret tag being applied at the talk of anything to do with the nuclear industry. There are rumors (and magazine articles) that hint of various problems in the past with the nuclear plants that India runs, including injuries, containment issues, radioactive leakages, and so on. However, as opposed to the western countries such as the US, France, UK, etc where there is much more information regarding the state of their nuclear plants, any reporting on the nuclear industry in India depends on insider information, or when there are politics inside the nuclear establishment and information is revealed to score points. The hope is that the creation of nuclear power plants have been done only on the basis of pure scientific reasons, and no other reasons.
There have been nuclear problems in other countries such as Russia, the United States, and so on, and these have been publicly disclosed, even though the revelation of these problems have caused huge Public Relations problems to the nuclear power industry. For example, in the United States, the problems at Three Mile Island caused a decades long public revulsion that prevented the creation of new nuclear power plants. It was only recently that the focus on clean energy and against the pollution caused by coal plants had caused a change in opinion with a recognition that nuclear power was a relatively clean and inexpensive source that could provide energy in realistic proportions.

In India, the need for nuclear power became a major issue, with the signing of the nuclear accord between India and the United States almost becoming a reason for the fall of the UPA -1 Government; there was a lot of wheeling and dealing before the Government managed to scrape through in a trust vote. And when the agreement was finally signed, it was proclaimed as a mighty step in the quest to make India a major strategic power; something that showed the presence of India on the world stage. Also, India would become the next major marked for nuclear power, with international companies and countries vying for getting a space in the Indian nuclear power plant market.
And in the space of 4 days, there has been a huge shift. It took an exceptional set of circumstances for the re-emergence of all the doubts about nuclear power to come to the fore, but it has happened. The twin shock of an exceptionally strong earthquake followed by a powerful water disaster, the tsunami, has severely crippled a series of nuclear reactors in Japan. These two disasters together crippled the cooling systems of the nuclear plant, and as the problems are getting revealed, the powerful impact of terms such as meltdown are becoming apparent. It is also apparent that if the situation in a nuclear power plant becomes bad (such as caused due to natural phenomenon such as these, or due to terrorist activities), the impact to the whole region is disastrous. If the reactor damage goes to the worst case, we are talking about contamination of all the surrounding area, and huge economic and environmental damage all around. And the dangers inherent (such as very high levels of radioactivity) are such that it is even difficult to stop this journey to disaster.
As a result of these series of events, there is likely to a huge public relations damage to the growth of the nuclear industry worldwide; and one would expect that this is likely to impact the nuclear industry. Wherever a nuclear plant is proposed, there will be huge resistance from the locals, and it would take a fairly long amount of time before this resistance vanishes.




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