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Nuclear power use gaining wider global recognition: AERB chief

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Hyderabad: Greater use of nuclear power as a way to limit global warming is gaining wider recognition in the world and India too needs to tap this source, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board Chairman S A Bhardwaj said today, who also sought to allay concerns about safety of atomic plants.

Among all the options available at present for producing power, nuclear is the prominent one for ensuring very long-term energy availability to the world and that too in a carbon-free process, he said.

Bhardwaj was speaking at an international conference, “Characterisation and Quality Control of Nuclear Fuels”, (CQCNF-2015) organised by Nuclear Fuel Complex here.

There are 437 nuclear power reactors today operating in 31 countries. Last year, they provided about 2,400 billion units of electricity, which is 11 per cent of the world’s power production, according to him.

“Today, the world in unanimity is looking for alternatives to limit global warming and nuclear (power) for environment (limiting global warming) is gaining wider recognition. People like Bill Gates are saying so,” he said.

For a country like India, which has a large population to support, the present acute shortage of electricity and simultaneously the dwindling coal reserves, and premium on land availability for non-farm use, nuclear emerges as a major source of energy for a very long time to come, he observed.

Noting that nuclear power has been around in the commercial domain for almost 50 years, Bhardwaj said that based on international estimates by some people, with available resources of uranium and thorium, “we (the world) may be able to provide bulk electricity for around 800-1,000 years.”

Referring to the domestic scenario, he said Indian pressurised heavy water reactors and the new generation light water reactors are now having features to meet the challenge of “prolonged station blackout”.

“In India, right from their (plants) inception, their safety systems can operate even if there is no electricity available. In Fukushima, electricity failed because of tsunami and their own diesel generators failed to operate because they got submerged in water and the accident occurred,” he said, referring to the March 2011 atomic disaster in Japan.

He said all nuclear plants in India undergo periodic safety review every five years as per procedures prescribed by AERB.”..Indian reactor buildings, they are double. One above the other, we call it zero leakage building”.

India has taken several steps towards development of necessary technology for utilisation of thorium (available in the country in huge amount) in the nuclear reactor programme, but its large scale use has to wait for a few decades, Bhardwaj added.