India must learn from Fukushima nuclear meltdown
Four of the reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan seem to be steadily moving towards progressive core melting.
If sizeable core melt occurs, very dangerous species of radioactive fission products in the form of gases, micro-dust and droplets could spread to large areas, depending on wind conditions.
This inevitably raises real concerns for other countries, such as India, that have nuclear facilities of their own.
It is unlikely that the kind of devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan will strike any of the Indian nuclear plants. But the earthquake-resistant designs and tsunami abatement measures we have taken in India's nuclear plants need a high-level, in-depth review by an independent expert group.
And in view of the vast nuclear devastation we are observing in Japan, I strongly urge the Indian government not to proceed with plans to import reactors from France, Russia and the United States, including the evolutionary pressurized reactors (EPRs) from France that are planned for the Jaitapur Project.
Lessons for India
India has built 18 pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) on its own over the past four decades. We have mastered the design by learning from the mistakes of the past and are currently planning to build 700-megawatt (MWe) units of this type. And we have three generations of Indian engineers who are familiar with the PHWR.
If we need more nuclear power, the safest route is to consolidate and expand on our PHWR experience, import natural uranium and build more PHWRs. We can move on to 1,000-MWe PHWRs once we have built and gained experience with the 700-MWe units.
If a major accident occurs, Indian engineers and scientists will be totally familiar with the details of a PHWR and can rapidly bring the situation under control.
Instead, the government is scattering our energies and talent in getting imported reactors such as the French EPRs in Jaitapur, light water reactors which neither India nor France know much about.