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Quiz Society SRCC

Nuclear Power: A Contemporary Liminality

We are not going to be able to achieve our climate goals if nuclear power plants shut down.”1, “If we are going to achieve our zero carbon or net-zero goals, nuclear has to be the part of the solution”2 , - these are the reiterating voices at the administrative levels which demand for the revival, reboot and restoration of the nuclear power as the potential substitute to coal and other fossil fuels, for electricity generation in the coming future. The Paris Agreement, carries the aim to limit global warming and curb the emissions of harmful greenhouse gases (Carbon dioxide, importantly) to reach net-zero between 2044 and 2052, while the total GHG (global greenhouse gas) emissions must reach net-zero between 2063 and 2068. Under the leadership of its president, Mr. Joe Biden, the United States of America has set a goal to reach 100% carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035 and has organized the National Climate Task Force for officially submitting the ‘nationally determined contribution’ (NDC) report to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), setting up an example for the other countries to follow suit. However, with the vanishing nuclear power plants at a rapid velocity and deteriorating/shrinking economies worldwide under the unfortunate spell of the COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes astonishingly significant to probe into the fallouts of the nuclear power as a source of energy, in order to fix them.



…climate change as a national security threat –a ‘threat multiplier’ that will exacerbate poverty and political instability, creating conditions that enable violence, despair and even terrorism…For example, climate change will lead to droughts. Droughts will lead to famine. Famine will…lead to refugee crisis. Refugee crises will lead to tension and instability across borders.”3. Hence, there is a dire need to adopt a kaleidoscopic perspective to understand the climate change as not only an ecological phenomenon, but a multifaceted pressing danger threatening humanity in general. The nuclear power has got the credibility to offer a secure future but only to an extent, if the current approach isn’t morphed into a more reliable one. The demand for electricity is expected to rise by manifold in the next decade. Around 10% of the world's electricity is generated by 445 nuclear power reactors, which, when further combined with wind and solar energy have together shown remarkable growth over the years but not enough to touch the bar of the ‘net-zero’ initiative by 2050, if the process of de-carbonizing the energy sector grid continues at this, relatively, staggered a speed. Although, there are various advantages of opting nuclear power such as: less carbon footprint generation, power plant takes up comparatively less space and can function in conditions independent of the restrictive natural conditions, unlike solar and wind generated power. But there are a lot of disadvantages, too.


With the older nuclear power reactors coming to a screeching halt, worldwide, as of April 2021: United States-39, United Kingdom-30, Germany- 30, Japan- 27, France- 14, just to mention a few. Additionally, hesitancy to expand in the arena of nuclear power because of the safety, sky- high expenses and radioactive concerns, reasons have together led to further delay in the desired improvements. After the Fukushima incident, which was the reason behind the occurrence of an earthquake with the magnitude of 9.0 and massive floods, countries don’t want to harbor infrastructures carrying life taking tendencies with them. There are two basic fields of concern- a) environmental security and b) cost reduction; for nuclear power to hold firmer grounds as a substitute.


The countries involved in nuclear power generation ought to take the entire responsibility of managing the radioactive waste, thus, produced by using techniques such as filtration, ion exchange in order to remove radionuclide content and immobilization of waste, such as the ‘Low- Level waste’ to be solidified into cement and the ‘High- Level Waste’ to be dried-up in order to be vitrified in a glass matrix. Most of the LLWs are further disposed off to land based or sea based disposal plants while, the HLWs require deep geological disposal in a mined repository, like the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in the USA.



As far as the low cost is concerned, the countries should adopt standardized reactor designs. The use of ‘Small Modular Reactors’ (SMRs) could be one such. Because of its, comparatively, smaller size there will be a lot of takers to invest in the capacity building program of nuclear power industry, making it economically feasible. Such compact reactors can also be easily submerged under water for experiments just to safeguard the unit from accidental breakthrough. Governments need to take a step further in order to understand the need of the hour and speed up the approvals to such start-ups, so that they could catch up with the requirements. And, the other dynamic prospect of storing the nuclear power can also act as a boon for the industry as it’d be able to cope with the howling demands of electricity 24/7. Storing energy as hydrogen in ‘Electrophoretic deposition’ process can be a viable method for same.


The instances of nuclear sabotage where infiltrators attack the power facilities are of grave concern, as in the case of Stuxnet. These computer worms have the capacity to target the industrial control systems, anonymously and if, used by harmful elements of the society, can cause a lot of damage to humankind.. The multinational groupings like National Suppliers Group or the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, should solemnly affirm to ensure that all the safety measures are taken under consideration while bringing about trade in nuclear supplies, prevent the spread of nuclear weapon and promoting peaceful use of nuclear energy. Not only this, international groupings can be used to give a nudge to standards set-up by the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime to tackle upcoming threats on nuclear power plant facilities by dangerous state and non-state actors who attack virtually. With crypto-currency gaining more prominence, it would become harder to pinpoint the anonymous investors in such facilities, if not monitored well. Hence, the organizations such as World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM), etc. should expand their legal framework approach.


As the pandemic did hit the shores across the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, it was the ‘global south’ which suffered the most. It would be too naïve to expect the developing and under-developed countries to cut down their carbon emissions in proportionality to the developed nations by 2050. These nations are not well equipped to contribute in the climate change initiative easily so steps like foreign direct investment, intelligence and technology sharing in good faith, incentives for investments in projects like making up of nuclear power plants and less stringent laws for them to cultivate their capability as budding nations, should be respected. The international cooperating units like Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and their sub-sects like Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) should assist such nations with scientific, legal, economical and technological guidance. Some developed countries are fostering their investments in enriching nuclear power plants based in under-developed nations to serve their personal interests of using them as proxies, therefore, a sincere consciousness should be reached by taking all the responsible stakeholders on-board and deciding the steps that should be taken to ensure that such under-developed countries must not fall prey to exploitative baits, and nuclear power generating industry remains immune to monopolizing authoritative regimes.


The impediments working against awareness and interests amongst the youths, about the safety and opportunities in the nuclear industry, have to be navigated and sorted by different actors at all stages: administrative, legislative, executive and policy making. Policy makers have to work in collaboration with various media outlets to discuss and debate about this field. The young professionals and researchers should be provided with stipend-driven internships and grants to carve out new niches in the nuclear industry, under the guidance of experienced professionals. The domestic realities does impact the foreign prospects, hence, well-designed infrastructure, growing GDP and FDI, improvement in trade by easing up, otherwise, rigid tariff norms- could help nations to integrate themselves in global nuclear supply chains; thereby, accelerating employment opportunities, both, locally and globally in nuclear power industry.


Considering how useful this energy could be with almost negligible harmful tendencies, every nation should work towards turning it into a responsible reality. To make sure, there is no other Hiroshima-Nagasaki (1945) or Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster (2011) or the Chernobyl disaster (1986), the possibilities in this promising realm of energy generation ought to be tapped with precision, commitment, vigilance and a more humane approach. The nuclear fleet has the capability of generating not only direct but also, indirect and influenced type of employments by integrating the web of various supply chains, acting on and off field- which make this industry a breeding ground for job opportunities. Hence, people need to administer their nascent faiths in the nuclear power for the sustenance of life on earth, ironically, even if that’s the only benefit it could possibly offer: “Nuclear power is our gateway to a prosperous future”4.


References:

  1. Energy Secretary, Jennifer Granholm, USA.

  2. Dan Stoddard, Chief Nuclear officer for Dominion Energy, USA.

  3. Kamala Harris, ‘The Truths We Hold: An American Journey’ (2019), pg.-244

  4. Dr.A.P.J.Abdul Kalam, Indian scientist and former Indian President




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3 Comments


Sarika S.
Sarika S.
Feb 05, 2022


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Sarika S.
Sarika S.
Feb 05, 2022

Amazing article ma'am💫 love your writing style, wish to see more of these by you❄️💫

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TARUN JAI
TARUN JAI
Feb 05, 2022

very informative article, appreciating your efforts in writing this

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