Friday, August 6, 2010

The problems and risks of nuclear power

There are many political and economic issues related to more nuclear power in Pakistan.Planning Commission's erst-while Energy Security Plan projects 8000 MW of nuclear power capacity installed by 2030.There are following problems that need to be considered.

1)Capital costs of nuclear power are very high;3000 usd per KW ,more than twice the normal thermal power plants.
2)Fuel cost is probably the cheapest,only second to the free hydro and wind.
3)No IPP in a foreseeable future would enter nuclear power in Pakistan,which means all equity,if not debt,has to come from government budget. Would government have the money? Should it invest in commercial projects ,leaving behind other priorities in social sector?
4)Pakistan's nuclear weapon status has not been fully accepted politically.Questions and concerns have been raised of possible terrorist attack on nuclear facilities and get hold of nuclear weapons and thus rationales are created to somehow de-nuclearise Pakistan.
5) Having a large number of nuclear power installations may make Pakistan more vulnerable to non-proliferation policies and pressures.
6)Nuclear Supply Guidelines(NSG) may prevent any further nuclear trade with Pakistan.Chines have withstand the pressure this time,arguing that the new rules do not apply to existing deals.Chinese are increasingly becoming involved with the US and becoming more "co-operative".It is not certain that the soft Chinese policies vis-a-vis nuclear nuclear supplies to Pakistan may continue.
7)There may be commercial costs in the Chinese monopoly to Pakistans nuclear power market both in terms of prices and quality.There are safety issues involved also.
8)A Pakistan nuclear deal ala Indian nuclear deal has been flatly rejected by the US administration.Some modus-operandi through France has been talked about in this respect,as was previously allowed to India for Tarapur Fuel purposes.
9)Nuclear power does not add to nuclear weapon capability as the commercial fuel cycle is under IAEA safeguards.Only some marginal possibilities of confusion could be exploited.

Keeping the above in view,it is obvious that there are problems ,risks and disadvantages in commercial nuclear power.It may much more advisable to invest in Thar Coal and Hydro power . Unfortunately western governments are opposing coal worldwide.Recently The World Bank was criticized for supporting Thar project,even though the technical assistance was very small.World Bank assistance reportedly has been restored after being put in abeyance for a while.This episode tells enough of international policies and preferences which are instrumental in foreign IPP investments.We have delayed Thar Coal project unnecessarily.Clear signals for a full-fledged implementation and utilisation of Thar Coal are still not visible.The clouds appear to be too dark.

It is highly improbable that the target of 8800 MW of nuclear power by 2030 would be achieved.We would be lucky if we get even 2000 MW more in this period.And keeping the afore-mentioned risks in view,that may be optimal as well

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