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India’s Nuclear Conundrum

NEW DELHI – Japan’s nuclear disaster has fueled fear and uncertainty among all of the world’s producers of nuclear power. For India, an energy-starved country, much is at stake.

That fear factor has two main causes. Although nuclear power ranks as a “clean” source of energy, it is accompanied by the terrible shadow of nuclear war, which emerged from Japan’s last reckoning with nuclear catastrophe, 65 years ago at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and which lends it an automatic association with mass destruction and death. Moreover, the secrecy that attends all things “nuclear” has left people not knowing enough to feel confident.

The fear inspired by the Fukushima Daiichi disaster will be reflected in soaring costs for nuclear power worldwide, largely owing to demands for improved safety and the need to pay more to insure the potential risks. Indeed, nuclear plants are prone to a form of “panic transference.” Should a reactor of one design go wrong, all reactors of that type will be shut down instantly around the world.

India’s dilemma is this: it has 20 nuclear plants in operation, with an additional 23 on order. With the country desperately short of power, and requiring energy to grow, concerned citizens are asking if nuclear is still the answer for India.