Bangalore: With several private power project developers seeking higher tariffs than they had quoted while bidding due to rising input costs and delayed clearances, industry body ASSOCHAM on Monday said the country has limited options and must forge ahead with nuclear energy initiatives.
  
Several power producers say increasing fuel costs due to imported coal and inadequate evacuation infrastructure are threatening to make the projects unviable. ASSOCHAM thus calls for nuclear energy to generate power "which is a cleaner and much cheaper" option in the long run compared with hydrocarbons.
  
“It is an essential component of India's economic growth and cannot be side-stepped,” said the chamber while urging the Tamil Nadu Government to address the legitimate concerns of protesters against the Koodankulam nuclear power plant.
   
At a time when 40 percent of households in the country do not have electricity, nuclear energy has the potential to be a viable source of power in future. Public awareness activities must be enhanced to address local people's concerns and to highlight superior safety features built into Koodankulam reactors, ASSOCHAM Secretary General D S Rawat said in a statement here.
   
Coal, oil and natural gas are major energy sources with coal accounting for the highest share of the primary energy mix (52.4 percent). Oil and natural gas account for 31.7 percent and 10 percent respectively of the country’s primary energy consumption.

According to ASSOCHAM, India faces a coal shortage of 142 million tonnes with the demand rising from 554 million tones to about 696 million tonnes in the current financial year.

The gap has to be met by imports. “Due to countrywide shortage and poor quality of coal, power generation in the country is only 66 per cent of the installed capacity,” said Rawat.
  
Nuclear power was one of the best options to enhance our energy security which would reduce the burden on Railways to ferry millions of tonnes of coal to power plants. About 40 tonnes of uranium can run a 220 megawatt nuclear plant for a one year, the industry body said.
   
Due to shortfalls in thermal and hydro power generation, the targeted 65,000 megawatt additional capacity could not be achieved during the 11th Five Year Plan. “If we have to maintain the economic growth momentum, India will require one lakh megawatt of additional power capacity in the 12th Five Year Plan (April 2012 to March 2017),” said Rawat.
  
He also said using coal for power generation will result in damage to environment. India would become one of the largest sources of greenhouse emissions worldwide in the next 20 years and there would be tremendous international pressure to reduce carbon footprints, said Rawat.
   
The nuclear project at Koodankulam is expected to generate huge amounts of power – more nuclear power than anywhere else in the country – and help solve Tamil Nadu's considerable electricity problems.

The government has certified that the plant would meet international safety standards, said Rawat. “For example, it is designed to withstand a tsunami. It is sad that the local opposition to the plant has been growing due to misinformation campaign," Rawat said.
  
The Atomic Energy Department, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd and Atomic Energy Regulatory Board have done extensive re-checks and "they are satisfied that the circumstances that led to the Fukushima accident in Japan are not at all likely to repeat in Koodankulam."
   
The state government has also assured that no more land would be acquired soon and the project would not contaminate the sea nearby or affect fishermen. “The safety aspect of nuclear plants has been established beyond reasonable doubt over the past five decades with nearly 400 facilities working across the country,” he said.
   
India has limited options available for power generation. There have been controversies over hydro projects in Arunachal Pradesh and doubts over solar projects with cost structures and technological handicaps.
    
“Fears expressed by protesting villagers in Koodumkulam should thus be resolved through discussions and not obstruct the nuclear power plant,” he added.

(Agencies)