By Simran Khanna
Due to the rate at which our fossil fuels are being exploited, renewable sources of energy seem to be our only hope of sustenance. Energy consumption per capita is significantly higher in developed countries. However, many developing countries like India and China use their status as developing countries to stake their claim on the further exploitation of natural resources, having arrived late to the banquet of natural resources. Man is always driven by profit, hence when the prices of the aforementioned depleting fossil fuels reached an all-time high as a result of its diminishing supply, he reverted to the alternatives, which historically served as his first sources of energy. Furthermore, during his thirst for more profit he also realized that the green houses gasses emitted consequent of the exploitation of fossil fuels were one of the main causes of global warming. Hence, the need for alternative sources of energy serves the dual purpose of protecting the environment from further harm and also reduces man’s dependence on fossil fuels. Furthermore, to whet the appetite of a curious mind, the involvement of the U.S.A in the Middle East also reflects the dynamics of the depleting resources.
The Second World War exposed the world to a new weapon of unparalleled destructive power. However, at that point of time, atomic energy also served as a ground-breaking discovery in the field of nuclear physics that if tapped into would provide a limitless source of cheap and clean energy. The main obstacle to the regulation of atomic energy was the phenomenon of dual use that continues to haunt us even today. This implies that the materials and technology used to harness potential diverted to peaceful purposes such as generation of electricity and research dedicated to medical science, can also be utilized to annihilate the world with the click of a button.
The problem of energy poverty is a phenomenon that plagues the new era, wherein there exists a deficit in the amount of energy produced and the amount that is required to sustain the growing populations. Hence, in the near future, nations will be plagued with the dilemma of choosing between the various sources of energy in order to provide a reliable flow of energy to the masses, keeping in mind the pressing need to curb the emission of greenhouse gasses. This reveals to us a paradigm shift of preference towards nuclear energy which can serve the needs of the people as well as their natural environment.
However, following the scare that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant dealt to the world, many nations such as Japan and Germany had decided not to opt for nuclear energy to sustain their populations because of the risk of contamination attached with its use. Contrary to their actions, India forges ahead with their nuclear mission.
This mission is aided and abetted by the underhand tactic employed through the Indo – U.S alliance. With China breathing down their neck as the emerging super power, this American move to support the Indian goal of nuclear sustenance allows India to emerge as another capable nuclear power in the Asian region. With India not being party to the NPT this initiative on the part of the U.S.A sends out a huge message undercutting the international pressure on India to join the NPT as a non-nuclear state. This deal further gives the American industries the government’s stamp of approval to move into commercial business with India even in the field of defence.
However, it is also important to note that Indo-Pak relations have been strained due to the recent accusations on both sides with regard to the casualties of soldiers at the border. Since Pakistan, with the help of AQ Khan, has also armed themselves to the ‘nuclear’ T, mutual destruction is predicted if the two go to war.
Many academicians also view nuclear energy as the third world energy that is being dumped on the developing nations while developed nations dismantle their reactors. Nuclear energy has the potential to harness the cleanest source of energy to substitute fossil fuels with, but keeping in mind the consequences of the Fukushima disaster, the only question that remains is whether we are capable enough to tackle all the ills associated with nuclear energy with a handful of safeguards. Is nuclear energy viable at a commercials scale?
In light of all the dangers associated with nuclear energy, the only recourse taken by India is the Civil Nuclear Liability law. This law sets a cap on the compensation that can be claimed by the victims of a nuclear disaster. However it is important to note that this cap may be inadequate and also limited by a time span of 10 years for the claimants. Furthermore, this law is open ended and subject to interpretation by the courts in the absence of other laws which could substitute this law.
Hence, nuclear energy can be equated to a Trojan horse because we have already drawn it into our emerging new world order. However, the problems that it carries with it can either lead to our demise or can serve as our symbol of victory.
Edited by Namitha Sadanand