Problems associated with renewable energy sources and the potential of nuclear power as a more viable alternative to fossil fuels

Recently the world faced an electricity and energy crisis. Although the reasons for this emergency were different in different countries, it has resulted in increased demand for reducing dependence on fossil fuels and increasing the production of renewable energy.

However, there is a need for serious evaluation of the current green energy paradigm in the context of the 24×7 availability of these renewable resources.

Although nuclear energy may be the cheapest, greenest, and safest source of energy currently known to man, it elicits a negative and often frenzied reaction whenever the word ‘atomic’ comes up, rather than a reasoned fact-based response.

In the Indian context, nuclear power has remained off the priority list of energy sources despite being a clean fuel. India accounts for just 1.72% of the global nuclear-installed capacity.

Nuclear Energy

Nuclear power is produced by breaking down atoms in a reactor, which is used to heat water to steam, drive turbines, and thus generate electricity.

Inside nuclear power plants, nuclear reactors and their equipment balance and control chain reactions, where uranium-235 fuel is often used to produce heat through fission.

Emissions from nuclear power generation: Nuclear energy is zero-emissions. It does not contain any greenhouse gases or air pollutants.

Land use: According to US government statistics, a 1,000 MW nuclear power plant requires 360 times less land than a similar capacity wind power plant or ‘wind farm’ and 75 times less land than solar plants.

Problems associated with renewable energy sources and the potential ofnuclear power as a more viable alternative to fossil fuels


Renewable Energy Vs Nuclear Power:

Sources of renewable energy are unstable: Solar and wind energy are often considered to be unstable sources. Electricity can be generated from these sources only when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing.

Even in the most favorable scenario, solar and wind plants do not or cannot generate electricity 24X7, requiring additional use of fossil fuels.

Currently, 24% of Britain’s electricity comes from wind power. But this year it faced an unexpected ‘windless summer’, one of the main causes of Britain’s electricity crisis.

Ecological damage from renewable energy: Wind and solar power projects can cause ecological damage in areas where they are set up.

It is roughly estimated that 500,000 birds are killed annually in the United States by wind turbines.

Nuclear power as an alternative: In contrast to the volatile nature of renewable sources such as solar and wind, nuclear power can be used for both electric baseload supply and peak load operation.

It is known that the price of electricity in Germany’s domestic sector is $ 0.37 per kilowatt-hour (KwH), which is the highest in the European Union, while in France it is only $ 0.19.

Electricity is very cheap and clean in France because France is mainly dependent on nuclear power.

In the year 2020, 78% of the energy generated by France came from nuclear power and renewable energy contributed 19%. In this, the share of energy derived from fossil fuels was only 3%.

Atomic Energy and India: India had signed the Indo-US nuclear deal (Indo-US nuclear deal) during the prime ministership of Dr. Manmohan Singh.

However, due to general opposition and short-lived political thinking, more serious action was not taken in this direction and the share of nuclear power in the electricity generated by India is only 3%.

In September 2021, the Indian government aims to triple its nuclear power capacity in the next 10 years.

nuclear energy problems

Lack of public funding: Nuclear power has never received the generous subsidies of the level that fossil fuels received in the past or are currently being provided to renewable sources.

In the absence of public funding, it will be difficult for nuclear power to compete with natural gas and renewable energy in the future.

Factors that keep nuclear power out of competition: Worse nuclear power economy around the world, Fast increase in construction costs—which are made worse after the Fukushima accident, and Heavy reliance on government subsidies, making nuclear power uncompetitive. has been

The poor financial condition of investors: Foreign companies like Toshiba-Westinghouse and Areva, which were contemplating the construction of nuclear power plants in India, are going through a severe economic crisis. This has also led to the failure of nuclear power as a primary resource for India.

The very existence of these companies is at stake today, either because they are under heavy state debt or they have been devalued due to competition.

Ground-level resistance: A feeling of reluctance or resistance to new nuclear power plants in India led to substantial delays in commissioning the Kudankulam plant and Westinghouse to move its first planned project from Gujarat to Andhra Pradesh Had to be forced

Land Acquisition: Land acquisition and selection of location for the nuclear power plants are also a big problem in the country.

Nuclear power plants like Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu and Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh have faced substantial delays due to land acquisition challenges.

Future prospects of nuclear energy

Utilization of Available Resources: The estimated natural reserves of uranium in India are about 70,000 tonnes and that of thorium is about 3,60,000 tonnes.

Therefore, India has to import most of the uranium it uses. It is also expensive and geopolitically difficult.

Instead of spending huge amounts on importing uranium, the country needs ambitious investments in projects that convert thorium into fissile uranium and generate electricity from it.

Addressing pre-project problems: The government needs to address pre-project problems such as land acquisition at new sites, especially clearances from various ministries including the environment ministry, and time-bound engagement of foreign collaborators.

In addition, continuous efforts should be made to reduce the capital cost of nuclear power plants.

Addressing Security Concerns: Safety is a major concern with respect to nuclear power generation, which should be addressed on a priority basis.

It would be a wrong move to completely eliminate nuclear power generation for fear of a nuclear accident.

If nuclear power is generated following the highest standards of safety, the potential for catastrophic accidents is low.

In this regard, the establishment of a “Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority” at the earliest will prove helpful for nuclear power programs in the country.

Technological Support: There is also a need to boost reprocessing and processing capacity in India. For this, India needs “advanced technology” to make full use of the fuel used and increase its processing capacity.

Conclusion

In the wake of the global energy crisis, this clean energy source should be rationally reconsidered, removing the negativity associated with the word ‘nuclear’.

We have to choose a suitable alternative among various low-carbon technologies having some of the other social and environmental impacts.

Nuclear power is one of the better solutions to meet the increasing energy demands. Given the low capacity utilization of renewable energy, rising fossil fuel prices, and ever-increasing pollution problems, the potential of nuclear power needs to be fully exploited.

Problems associated with renewable energy sources and the potential of nuclear power as a more viable alternative to fossil fuels
Problems associated with renewable energy sources and the potential of nuclear power as a more viable alternative to fossil fuels

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