There has been much debate over the expansion of nuclear energy in India, the arguments covering a gamut of angles from safety and environmental concerns to liability, security and affordability. However, whether India should go down the nuclear path is a moot question. The issue is not if India needs nuclear energy but how quickly it can expand its capacity. To understand this, a few data points about its present situation need to be kept in mind.
As of January 2018, India generated 331 GW of electricity. Of this, some 66 per cent comes from thermal energy, 13.6 per cent from hydroelectric power, 18 per cent from renewable energy, and a mere two per cent from nuclear energy. Industry consumes 40 per cent of the total capacity, agriculture takes 18 per cent, domestic consumption is 24 per cent, and the rest goes to railways, commercial use, and other odds and ends. India’s per capita consumption of power is approximately 1,122 kWh and over 240 million people in India still have no access to electricity. By way of comparison, the United States (US) consumes over 12,000 kWh per capita, China utilises 4,310 kWh per person, and the countries in western Europe such as France, Germany and Britain approximately 6,500 kWh.
The connection between energy consumption and economic growth cannot be overemphasised. The present definition of rural electrification employed by the government of India is that a village is considered electrified if 10 per cent of the households have at least one electric point. Even functional electrification – televisions, refrigerators, computers, mobile phones, air conditioning, fans – to all without considering any increase in industrial and other demands would require a mammoth increase in generating capacity no matter how conservatively electricity is used. Read More…
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