Is Nuclear Energy Good for India?

Environmental impacts of nuclear energy generation has to be considered for the whole fuel cycle, from the mining of Uranium to provide fuel for nuclear reactors, to the disposal of radioactive wastes and the decommissioning of nuclear energy plants.

A fuel cycle is the whole sequence of processes from the energy source to the actual energy from which is transmitted/transported, and beyond the latter to the disposal/recycling of wastes and by-products. The principal environmental impacts arise through (a) radiation (b) thermal pollution. The radiation, which includes alpha, beta and gamma rays, can have adverse effects on those who are exposed to it.

Uranium is mined as uranium ore. Uranium ores are generally mined by underground or surface mining. Uranium-238 is radioactive and decays to give radon-222. Uranium milling operations lead to release of radioactive material as well as radioactive liquid wastes and tailings. Though there are many types of reactors, the primarily used reactor is the light-water reactor.

So far, no satisfactory acceptable long-term solution to high-level waste disposal problem has been developed.

Unprecedented Resolution in Kerala Assembly

Kerala legislative assembly adopted a resolution on 11th July urging
the Union government to ditch the Indo-US civilian nuclear
agreement—on environmental grounds rather than purely ideological. One
green activist said the move was unprecedented.

The resolution linked the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
notification of 2006 with the nuclear deal, over which the Left
parties have withdrawn support to the Congress-led United Progressive
Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre.

The EIA notification mandates that companies wishing to set up nuclear
power plants apply for environmental clearance to the Union government
rather than the states.

Nuclear energy companies associated with the defence forces would be
exempted from requiring environmental clearances.

"The EIA notification of 2006 is against the interest of Kerala state,
nature and environment and people," said the resolution.

"The Indo-American Nuclear Agreement is an attempt by American
imperialism to transform India as a client state. Kerala State
Assembly earnestly requests Central Government to withdraw from the
Agreement," the resolution said.

This resolution was proposed by Rajaji Thomas, a lawmaker from the
Communist Party of India (CPI), and was passed with 76 votes in favour
and none against in the 141-member assembly.

The resolution will now move to the ministry of environment and
forests (MoEF), which will have to take a call on it.
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"The notification has diluted provisions for nuclear facilities,
opening the gates for the nuclear agreement," said a member of the
assembly, who did not wish to be identified.

The resolution was passed as the UPA prepares for a showdown in
Parliament over the nuclear deal after taking heavy flak over the
agreement from both its erstwhile Left allies and the main opposition
Bharatiya Janata Party.

Another member of the assembly, who did not wish to be identified,
said the nuclear deal was not the only reason behind the resolution.
"There have been many such environmental issues in the state. Some
projects have been getting clearances without even a public hearing,"
he said.

The 163MW Athirapally Hydro-Electric Project, on the Chalakudy river
in Thrissur district, has been hanging fire since the early 1990s.
The project, to be executed by the Kerala State Electricity Board
(KSEB), has been at the centre of protests by local villagers, tribals
and farmers.

KSEB obtained a clearance from MoEF for the project without a public
hearing under the 2006 EIA notification after holding one hearing
under a predecessor.

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