Maha Mirza

Nukes in town: Be prepared for all hell to break loose

December 22, 2011

nuclear 2*The government of Bangladesh has promised us a safe and risk-free nuke in our backyard.
*The Ruppoor nuclear power plant is designed to add a minimum of 1000 MW electricity to the national grid.
*It will be strong enough to handle a 10 Richter scale earthquake.
*It will be well equipped to prevent any accident.

Really!

All governments lie, indeed. All governments try to hide the hippopotamus under the rug. And when it comes to a nuclear deal, public relation becomes more important than public safety.

The myth of a clean nuke
They say nuclear technology is clean. And the only time a reactor actually releases a bulk of radiation is during an accident.

The truth is every nuclear power plant is capable of an accident.

Every nuclear plant releases radiation during every stage of its production. Workers at all stages of the uranium purification process are exposed to radiation. The fairytale of safe nuclear power is thus mostly based on imperfect assumptions and wishful thinking.

According to environmentalist Dr. Vandana Shiva: Just because we don’t get to see radiation, doesn’t mean that nukes are clean.

The myth of a safe nuke
They say, other than Chernobyl, Three Miles Island, and Fukushima, there has never occurred any serious accident at any other nuclear plants.

However, unfortunately, there is quite a lengthy list of nuclear accidents, which includes explosions, near-meltdowns, burnt cables, electrical errors, faulty installation, underground pipe leakage, accidental release of plutonium sludge, radioactive fluids leaking into drains and ending up into nearby rivers, and so on. Hundreds of nuclear accidents are reported each year only in the United States alone. Between 1993-1995, international researchers pointed out more than hundreds of “hazardous incidents” at nuclear plants in India.[1]

The claim of a ‘safer’ nuke is thus ambitious, obnoxious, and inaccurate.

At a time, when the Germans are getting ready to shut down all their nuclear plants by 2022, the Chinese are putting the construction of all their nuclear power plants on hold, the Indians are relentlessly protesting against it for the last 20 years; somehow, we have managed to come up with a safe nuke!

Are we not sleepwalking towards a disaster?

The myth of a cheap nuke
They say nuclear technology is a good technology with a low cost. The question is, how good and how low?

According to various studies:
- It takes around $800 million to set up a 1000 MW gas based plant.
- It takes around $1400 million to set up a 1000 MW coal fired plant.
- It takes around $2-3 billion (around $2000-3000 million) to set up a 1000 MW nuclear power plant.[2] So it is clear that nukes cost way more in terms of capital investment.

However the biggest argument in defence of nuclear power is that the per unit production cost/fuel cost for a nuclear power plant is actually much lower than a coal based or natural gas based power plant.

In short, in case of a nuke, you put more bucks in the beginning, so that you can save up later. Sounds like a deal, but here is the hitch.

The piece of information they don’t give us:
a) The maintenance cost of such a nuclear power plant is ludicrously high compared to coal/gas/solar plants.[3]

b) The day to day operation of a nuclear plant requires continuous cooling down of the reactor by the use of a titanic amount of water which handsomely skyrockets the operation cost of nuclear energy, deeply challenging the popular myth “Nukes are cheap.”[4]

c) To run a 1000 MW nuclear plant, it requires at least 185 MW electricity. Which means a nuke eats up at least one fifth of its own energy.[5]

d) The waste disposal of a nuclear power plant is costly, complex and chaotically hazardous.

e) In case of an accident (which is almost inherent to nuclear technology) the repair or replacement cost could be a terrible rip-off. (Since 1987 to 2002, at least 6 serious accidents had occurred in different nuclear power plants in India which cost nearly 1 billion dollar to repair).[6]

So the bottom line is: Nukes cost a hell lot, and doesn’t really save a hell lot. Now the question on the table is, is there any comfortable alternative?

The energy debate: Can we have a coal-free, nuke-free future?
It is true that fossil fuels or nuclear power both are capable of producing an enormous amount of energy which is crucial for rapid industrialisation and heavy manufacturing. It is true that in an exponentially expanding growth economy, solar and wind offer no practical alternative to fossil fuel and nuclear power. It is also true that the adoption of renewable energy, such as the construction of a 1000 MW equivalent PV solar panel (equivalent to a Ruppoor Nuclear plant) may turn out to be costlier than a nuclear power plant (at this point).

However, the good news is, the Sun is taking over! In the last few years the cost of solar energy have been falling fabulously low, while the cost of nuclear energy have been flying terribly high. [7] The most recent cost projection for a brand new nuclear reactor is pointed out to be at least four times higher than the earlier projections. [8]

nuclearMeanwhile the renewable energy scientists have already declared that the historic “solar-nuclear-cost-crossover-moment” has finally been reached (which simply means, the per unit production cost for solar photovoltaics is finally becoming cheaper than nukes). [9][10]

In addition, here are some recent headlines:
Prices of solar panels falling: By 2013 they will be half of what they cost in 2009 (The Guardian, June, 2011).

Solar, once the most expensive of the “renewables,” has become cheaper than nuclear plants. (NC Warn, July 2011).

A sharp 70 percent reduction in the cost of solar panels since 2009 (Clean Technica.com, December 2011).

The Europeans have already shown in practicality, renewable energy can actually take the load away from the national grid only if the right amount of money is put into it. For instance, in the year of 2011 alone, as much as 7,400 MW of electricity has been produced in Germany (equivalent to seven Ruppoor power plant) based on solar technology only. [11] Certainly, the Germans are wholeheartedly shifting their resources from nukes to solar.

Therefore, it doesn’t sound too complicated when the energy scientists say: Europe can go ‘100% renewable’ by the mid century, and ultimately phase out ‘dirty’ energy. [12]

In short, if we are so equipped to accommodate a super expensive nuke, and if we are already super-subsidising the short-term, oil-based quick-rental power plants; it only makes super-sense to shift our resources to solar, which is super safe, sustainable, long-term and also, on the way to be super-cheap! And most importantly, it doesn’t leak (it emits neither carbon, nor radiation).

The nature of the beast we have come to call growth
However, the real danger still exists, and that is our obsession for Growth. In general a country’s energy appetite gets fatter and fatter in direct proportion to its economic growth. To keep up with the ‘growth’ ladder, human civilisation has moved from wood to coal, coal to oil, and ultimately oil to nukes. The age of easy oil is over. We have already burnt too much of fossil fuels (up to a point that it dug a hole in the ozone layer), the natural gas bases are shrinking as well.

Too many of us are consuming too many resources too fast in the name of economic growth. The expansion of the global nuclear industry (based on today’s apparent affluence of Uranium) is therefore, the inevitable by-product of the hysterical expansion of the “growth” economy.

The Roman civilisation ran on slavery. The 21st century civilisation runs on energy. And the universal energy law runs on a simple algebra: The more and more you dig, the less and less you get. The less and less you get, the more and more energy you require to dig deeper and deeper. It comes to a point where digging deeper requires more energy than what it actually gets from digging. The end game is simple: sooner or later the global enterprise of “digging & drilling” will be asking for a bail out. Indeed, the earth’s natural resources are finite. If we keep digging for them, we will eventually exhaust them.
It has become a matter of simple commonsense.

If we simply choose to “grow”, which is the default position of our politicians and economists, no combination of nukes, fossil fuel, solar, and wind will be able to sustain such an arrogant economy. The ones who desire Bangladesh to be a middle-income economy by 2020, or aspire to have an India-like-super-duper-growth-rate, need to ask a simple question: Do we have the fuel to fuel a fat economy?

Therefore, it is vital to look beyond the very wasteful system of economic growth. It is vital to stop the chaotic expansion of the urban base. It is vital to rethink and reorganise the grammar of economics. Rapid urbanisation and gigantic development projects do not necessarily raise the quality of life of people. The ‘50s Nehruvian vision of big development projects had ultimately come to be known as “anti-people”, due to its built-in characteristic of destruction and displacement. India’s monstrous nuclear power industry has ultimately been tagged as friends of ‘Industrial India’ but enemy of the common men. A long and brutal history of economic growth tells us, a double digit growth does not ensure quality of water, freshness of air, fertility of seeds and soils, health of human beings.

A big economy eats up big energy, a small economy eats up smaller.
Therefore, it is important to look for small and localised solutions, rather than humongous, highly centralised, and filthy rich projects.

Ultimately, ‘decentralisation’ is the key to energy distribution. Thus, the alternative lies in thousands of tiny projects of renewable energy. The alternative lies in preserving our agriculture, our rivers, our rural communities, and our ‘smaller’ ways of lives. As Gandhi once said: “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed”. Interestingly, the Gandhian way of ‘sane’ consumption is becoming more relevant than ever.

Lastly: nuclear energy is neither cheap, nor clean, nor safe. It is a brutal and wasteful technology which doesn’t do “Gandhi” very well.

———————–
Maha Mirza is a researcher and activist. She is a graduate in economics and international political economy.

Footnotes:
1. Benjamin K. Sovacool. A Critical Evaluation of Nuclear Power and Renewable Electricity in Asia, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol. 40, No. 3, August 2010, p. 380.
2. Risto and Aija. Comparison of Electricy generation costs. Lappeenranta University of Technology. Lappeenranta, 2008.
3. Cooper, Mark. The Economics of Nuclear Reactors: Renaissance or Relapse. Vermont Law School, 2009.
4. Blackburn and Cunningham. Solar and Nuclear Costs —The Historic Crossover, Solar Energy is Now the Better Buy. NC Warn. 2010.
5. Renewableenergyworld.com
6. Cost comparison of energy supply technologies:http://www.unenergy.org/Popup%20pages/Comparecosts.html
7. Battle of the Grids, a 2011 report, by Greenpeace International.
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39 Responses to “ Nukes in town: Be prepared for all hell to break loose ”

  1. Dahari on June 9, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    I am getting a bit sick of seeing people saying that uranium supplies are finite and will be depleted within a couple of centuries at most. This is pure unadulterated rubbish that has never had any traction outside of antinuclear wishful thinking, and should be treated as such.

    The IAEA estimates that using only known reserves at the current rate of demand and assuming a once-through nuclear cycle that there is enough uranium for at least 100 years. However, if all primary known reserves, secondary reserves, undiscovered and unconventional sources of uranium are used, uranium will be depleted in 47,000 years if the above conditions hold. Current active reserves are not growing because the market is stagnant, with supply meeting demand at present. As well, it is generally found to be cheaper to mine new uranium out of the ground than to use reprocessed uranium and because for misguided political nuclear proliferation fears, the plutonium economy has not yet materialized. As for radioactive pollution, the only energy source that generates any of consequence is coal combustion, not nuclear fission.

  2. Afsar K on December 27, 2011 at 3:04 am

    I see a lot of people here do not have the commonsense to understand why we need to go against the very idea of ‘Advancement’ itself.

    I will recommend every one to see the award winning documentary 11th hour. Broaden your horizon, learn to look beyond ”Growth and advancement”. we need to stop consuming energy like crazy maniacs. and we need to explore all avenues of renewable energy.

    And the price of solar panels are declining everywhere. A simple google search will help to understand how radically the price is declining. Recently Bill Clinton in a TV interview had spoken about the declining price of solar technology, and the need for switch resources from nuke to solar. So this is a good news for Bangladesh.

  3. Sabit on December 26, 2011 at 10:13 am

    There is NO alternative to NUKE. Got it? You can continue arguing but it does not mean you are right.

  4. Tarif on December 26, 2011 at 7:37 am

    Great article Maha!

    However, I don’t believe that our neo-liberal economists in our country would even care about the adverse affects the nuclear plant will have on broader society, because after all, the only thing that matters to them is GROWTH.

    Anyway, great article.

  5. A.K.M. Wahiduzzaman (Apollo) on December 25, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    “When nuclear power plants remove water from a lake or river for steam production and cooling, fish and other aquatic life can be affected. Water pollutants, such as heavy metals and salts, build up in the water used in the nuclear power plant systems. These water pollutants, as well as the higher temperature of the water discharged from the power plant, can negatively affect water quality and aquatic life.” – Environmental Protection Agency.

    At first, I salute you for this nice analysis. I just want to add an environmental issue next to all your points.

    A nuclear power plant consumes massive amount of waters just for its cooling needs and also for steam generation which then drives turbines that generate electricity. That’s why developed countries build nuclear reactors on the coast. Rooppur was chosen as the site for its proximity to the Ganges and 260 acres of land was acquired in 1963. Now, as the main channel of the Ganges moved south from its previous position, the project will acquire new land destroying valuable agricultural land.

    A 1000 megawatt nuclear power will withdraw at least 29.7 cusec water from the river and consume at least 26.73 cusec of it [1]. If the water is withdrawn from the Ganges during the dry season (November-April), the riverine environment of Rooppur to Goanlonda will be severely affected.

    ——————
    1. Water & Sustainability (Volume 3):U.S. Water Consumption for Power Production—The Next Half Century, Topical Report March 2002, EPRI, Concord. Viewed 1 November 2006. http://www.epriweb.com/public/000000000001006786.pdf

  6. Damn_nuke on December 25, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    What I find really irritating about some people’s comment here is, they have no problem when a dangerous nuclear plant consumes some 100 acres plus land in Ruppoor, (which contains people, agriculture and all forms of lives) but they have serious problems with a solar plant if that takes over the same amount of land! WOW. These people seems to be blindly in love with an imported technology which we don’t even own.

    While millions of people worldwide, are campaigning against nukes, some people here are pretending to be oversmart about this, and trying to say nukes are the only solution to energy crisis in a country like Bangladesh! Are these people out of their freaken mind??

    • AA on December 26, 2011 at 7:08 am

      I want to inform you that the land for the Rooppur Power Station had been acquired by the State many years ago. It is about forty acres of land lying fallow. There are no villages there and the agriculture that is done there is mostly spread your seeds and get whatever you can get.

      the only permanent establishment there is a small mosque.

      I repeat without large energy project we will go back to the stone ages and we have no option other than large nuclear plants. Note we have very little gas, no coal, no oil and no catchment area for hydel project.

      As for solar energy it is good for lighting a bulb, at what cost, God alone knows.

  7. kallol on December 24, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    Firstly, I would like to thank Maha Mirza for raising these very important questions about safety & cost of nuclear power plant in general and also for drawing attention towards renewable energy in general & solar power in particular as a sustainable solution when most of the educated people & “experts” are dangerously boasting on the prospect of possessing “prestigious” nuclear energy by simply importing the technology from another country!

    Secondly, I would add some points considering some previous comments already made here. After this, we will focus on some concrete issue regarding safety and economics of this ‘to be imported’ Russian VVR1000 nuclear power plant.

    Let’s put the issue in this way: Is importing the 2000 MW nuclear plant technology is an unavoidable task to ensure energy security in Bangladesh even though nuclear power plant is a very dangerous technology?

    To answer this question, first we have to be clear about the very concept of ‘energy security’. Energy security is not simply an issue of meeting energy demand, it is about supplying energy in a sustainable way i.e. to ensure energy security; we have to ensure the availability of the fuel, we have to consider the cost of fuel, cost of installation, commissioning, operation & maintenance, decommissioning, safety of the plant, affordability of the consumer, etc.

    As of availability of fuel of nuclear power plant, Bangladesh has NO uranium mine & also uranium is not available in open market. Like NPP technology, Bangladesh shall have to obtain it through special arrangement. In that case our energy security will be dependent on another country. So, if import is the only option, why just thinking about uranium? Why not LNG?

    I am not arguing in favour of LNG, I am just drawing attention to other options before deciding anything like an INHERENTLY dangerous NPP. To me, in short-term, we can meet our current power shortage by simply increasing gas production by BAPEX within 2-3 years & also repairing the faulty units of PDB power plant. Let’s look more into detail: Current amount of electricity shortage is around 2000 MW and on 11 October 2011, 2002 MW electricity was produced less than the installed capacity of which only 437 MW was due to gas shortage & 1755 MW was due to 19 faulty units of 14 PDB plants!
    http://www.bonikbarta.com/2011-10-13/news/details/9649.html

    Now if we invest few hundred crore Taka (rather than several thousand crore for importing a dangerous technology) in repairing the faulty PDB plant & increasing their efficiency and also strengthening BAPEX to develop new wells from SUNETRO (probable 4 tcf), RASHIDPUR (3.5 tcf newly added) and other existing wells, within 2 years we can generate more than the required amount after 2 years (the proposed NPP will take at least 10 years to be operational). But, alas! The govt is not willing to spend few hundred crore taka to strengthen national capacity, its sole interest is to import an unsustainable technology, realize a nuclear dream to bring glamor in its political resume.

    But in longer term, even vast reserve of the onshore & offshore gas of Bangladesh will be finished. So we have to think about alternative. Here comes the question of strengthening the national capacity in this regard also. Off course, solar power is an option but not the only option. We have to explore other renewable like Biogas, Wind, Geothermal etc in an integrated way and relatively cleaner technology like Coal Bed Methane, Coal Gas etc and until we can gain sufficient capacity in a cheaper way, we can even think of importing costly LNG, but not importing a costly and dangerous NPP, the reason of thus is already nicely explained by Maha Mirza. And, if the stated alternative options are not enough, we all need to think, act, explore more options.

    Here, I would like to add that, the tendency of making one person (who is pointing to the dangers of a certain technology) solely responsible for developing alternative, is very problematic, scientific reasoning does not work in this way. Raising question about safety of a certain technology is one thing, and proposing alternative is another thing: as Maha Mirza raises question, showed danger, so now it is her duty to show the way out – I don’t find any justification to this kind of attitude. The main question is whether NPP is safe or not. First we have to deal this question seriously. If we all agree that it is unsafe and unsustainable, then we all should (including the Govt) take the responsibility of finding a way out, otherwise, no one will be able to raise any serious question on any issue unless he/she has the proper solution and the real danger lies in this attitude is that – his/her inability to find a solution won’t make the issue less dangerous!

    The nuclear lobby always argues that nuclear technology is the safest & sophisticated technology nowadays, that Chernobyl-type unsafe technology do not exist etc etc. But, as Maha Mirza rightly states, accident in nuclear plant is not rare, various type of accident is happening in spite of the ‘safe’ technology:

    Nuclear power plant accidents: listed and ranked since 1952
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/mar/14/nuclear-power-plant-accidents-list-rank?fb=native

    When any accident happens in NPP for a fault unnoticed so far, we are always assured that – oh! This is a very old model NPP, that’s why this accident happened. Use this new version guys, this version is protected from all the flaws of the older versions. After Chernobyl we heard this. But then Three Mile Island happened. Again we were assured. The Japanese people were assured about Fukushima plant that this is 2nd Generation NPP, there is a very little chance of accidents (accident probability was only 1 in 1600 times). But this very little possibility did not prevent accident in Fukushima. Now we are being told that Fukushima is a 2nd Generation plant, that’s why there was problem in its cooling system and its backup mechanism. Guys, use this 3rd Generation NPP, it is free from this type of fault. But the problem is that while we are importing a 3rd Generation Plant, 4th Generation is already being developed to sell in future saying that oh! The accident in Ruppoor? Man, that was an old 3rd generation plant, that’s why it had a fault in its steam pipe….

    In fact, no technology is 100% safe. If we talk about science, if we talk about technology, first we have to acknowledge the fact that no safety design can accommodate all the future scenario which might cause an accident. Some argues that, yes we all know this, but this does not prevent us using the technology- we all know that a car can have accident, a plane can crash but for this we have not stopped using car, plane etc. But, the main point is that, car/plane accident and nuclear accident is not the same thing- car/plane accident only kills the passengers or few other passengers but Nuclear accident may kill hundreds of thousands people, radiation may destroy entirely not only the current population but also the future generation. That’s why only a slight probability of accident (which is always looming like in all other technology) make nuclear plant SO dangerous, SO unacceptable for mankind to waste its time, effort & money in this technology.

  8. Chomon on December 24, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    ‘Its the economy stupid’.
    Since you do understand science very well, it does not mean you don’t have to take the economic parameters into counting. That would make sense.

    • Chomon on December 25, 2011 at 8:34 pm

      My reply was due to Mr. Farsheem’s comment.

  9. Sonia Sharmin on December 24, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    What i like about this write-up the most is it’s written in layman’s English so that we the non-technical people can understand the risks involved with nuclear power plant and how dangerous such projects could be.

  10. imtiaz alam on December 24, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    I can’t imagine there are so many people who support nuclear power plant project! Isn’t anyone thinking straight? How can this be a viable option for us?

  11. Wasim frm Pabna on December 24, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Agree with Hashem bhai and SNH.

  12. olosh on December 24, 2011 at 1:18 am

    Technical points:
    1. Hole in the ozone layer had nothing to do with fossil fuels. It was due to chloroflurocarbons.

    2. If solar energy were cheaper, why is nobody building it? Germany gets around 20% from renewables (more wind than solar), but France gets nearly 77% from nuclear (these are old stats, trying it from memory, so I could be a bit off these specific numbers)?

    3. As a respondent pointed out, the area requirement is large for solar.

    Personally though, I feel nuclear power plants will be a disaster-in-waiting in Bangladesh. The safety culture is pathetic here, security is often shabby, and the competence of the govt. officials (most of whom will probably get the job because of their connections, rather than knowledge) questionable, accountability (in case an accident happens) zero. If a disaster does take place, Bangladesh will not even have any ability to fight it. Considering the very high population density of the country, nuclear is indeed a very risky proposition (that doesn’t mean solar is the solution, though!).

    • Ali on December 24, 2011 at 10:00 pm

      A country like Japan, perhaps the second or third high-tech country, having a culture of high industrial safety records, failed to protect themselves from fallout and radiation, pollution (post tsunami), then we shall stand ‘nowhere’ with Russian technology in the event of a nuclear disaster. Even serious natural disaster can put us off-guard. Any precautionary measure may not be sufficient, and our own safety standards are miserably LOW!
      So, disaster is in the waiting! However, if we really want to graduate to a country producing nuclear energy, we must also check and PLAN our population. If population is seriously planned and controlled, many disaster can be turned into smaller ones. And today’s many problems can be better addressed.
      It does need concerted and sincere efforts. But if the priority is only political gains and winning elections then no one is there to help this nation.

  13. Sohel from Edinburgh on December 23, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    Very nicely and smartly written. Super liked it.

    Completely agree with the writer, we the developing nations can’t simply follow the so-called industrial revolution ideology of the western world anymore and rely completely on them to bail us out from the effects of CC/nor should be the dumping ground of failed technology. Following their way of developing by small and big developing nations(e.g.china, india) is just quickening the adverse impacts climate change /global warming on us which already started flexing muscles everywhere…

    We need alternative thinking like this to build an alternative way to build our nation, economy. The problems to be taken care of immediately is shifting focus to rural growth (i.e. safeguarding our nature, resources while bolstering rural economy- thereby easing mass in-migration to cities) while decentralizing Dhaka’s central functions to peripheral towns. We also need to curb population growth, educate them more (hopefully make them conscious enough to adopt quickly to the alternative way of living and making BD sustainable and successful)…

    Happy new year to all..best.

    Sohel

  14. Syed Imtiaz Ali on December 23, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    If the Rooppur Plant eventually materializes, there is a strong likelihood of it being staffed and managed by BNP or AL leaning officials and engineers. Any doubts? The ultimate will be nothing more or less than whims! Like our public universities.
    I am afraid that dedication, responsibility, professionalism will be seriously wanting. The scenario is simply scary. And overall SECURITY? Are we getting prepared, when we see our scientific and intellectual level having a free fall?
    This seems to have a political dimension as well. We are in awe that we are being gifted with a nuclear plant!
    The best would have been, instead of rushing, to study more of alternative sources and generation of power. I believe there is still time for a genuine RETHINK at the earliest. To begin with to seriously INCREASE Solar Power harnessing.

  15. Golam Arshad on December 23, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    The upside of your article is well taken. Unfortunately, the preemption, demystifying the safety on procurement of nuclear energy, is slightly off tipped and a retinue matter promoting energy for ALL. Good job!!

  16. russel on December 23, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    What an excellent consumption of the writer! Very well said.

    We perceive this issue. It is too dangerous and hazardous to approach. But our government is reckless. They always try to keep us in dark and create the final trap to be devastated. They should seek consent of people first on issues like nuclear power plant, Tipaimukh etc etc and then proceed.

  17. Tkandi on December 23, 2011 at 12:15 am

    Our politicians understand commissions and that’s why they want it.

  18. Abul Hashem on December 22, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    The writer probably has no clue about how much land is necessary to set up a viable solar plant to produce 1000MW of electricity. That would easily consume 100+ acres of land. Bangladesh is also not as civilized as to just lay acres of solar panel on unprotected grounds. During times of hartal or power shortage these will be easy pickings of the vandals.

    Coal / Gas / Oil are running out of Bangladesh quickly. Coal is probably still there, but it is one of the worst form of energy. Although there are options for clean coal technology and should be explored for sure.

    Nuclear is indeed the most cost effective form of technology. It is still the most cost effective after you take into account ALL costs (maintainance, recycle, etc). The author’s arguments were poor against nuclear costs.

    Her logics were like as follows: Air travel is the worst form of travel because it is expensive and dangerous. IF there is an accident you will die in a Plane, but you will survive in Car. So, go to the Moon using a Car.

    • Farseem on December 24, 2011 at 12:07 am

      Well-said. The write-up shows how a bad science education can lead to a total nonsense. You have rightfully showed the real challenge of solar power: its efficiency is so low that it takes a large area to generate the same power of a conventional generator. On top of that, Bangladesh needs a base-load of at least 2000MW, our dwindling sources of conventional sources cannot give this much of energy. Also most of the countries which have already advanced considerably, did achieve this luxury at the cost of nuclear power. Of course, nobody argues that we don’t need any sort of safety concern, but it is absolutely nonsensical to use a few juvenile cartoons to shoo away the nukes. Nukes are not that cheap!

      • Tasbir Ahmed on December 24, 2011 at 7:26 pm

        It’s not the writer alone, but millions of others, experts and otherwise, are campaigning against nuclear power plants. Just skim and browse a bit and you will understand.

        Thanks Maha for such a timely and excellent piece.

      • Poribesh bachao on December 24, 2011 at 10:15 pm

        Mr. Farseem,

        Your so called ‘good’ science education so far has led to worldwide ecological destruction, ozon layer depletion, chemicalization of war, depleation of oil, gas, coal, metal, water, and destruction of our climate. The good scientists are now the good criminals, who are bought and sold regularly by the corporations and hugely responsible for the environmental Apocalyptic of our time. If alternative thinking is bad science, if calling nuke dangerous is bad science, if exploring the potential of renewable energy is bad science, then let such bad science rule the world. We need more and more ‘bad science’ to promote alternative ways of life, and alternative thinking in the economy, otherwise we are doomed. Sorry, the so-called good science of Mr. Farseem could not discover any Planet B yet.

      • Tamal on December 24, 2011 at 10:30 pm

        It is interesting how the people make comments without even reading the article properly, and without even grasping the inner philosophy of it. As far as I can see it, the article is clearly against any highly centralized projects and promoting decentralization in energy distribution. I don’t see the author talking about a solar tower for once, (which would require 100 plus acre of land). Instead, it is clear that the writer is talking about 1000 MW EQUIVALENT of decentralized photovoltaic home systems, (“the alternative lies in thousands of tiny projects of renewable energy”) an idea which has already been promoted by thousands of environmental scientists of the world.

      • dylan hanson on December 25, 2011 at 1:22 am

        As a graduate student of environmental science, I can assure you that the ‘juvenile cartoons’ you are referring to is being taught at graduate level in the States. This kind of cost comparison analysis with alternative energy is common and important to constantly question our decisions to choose ’smart’ energy source. Please see the citation of the source of this ‘juvenile cartoon’, it is not from a cartoon book.

        Over two centuries, developed nations have gone through transition of energy source due to its cost effectiveness. There is a reason why nuclear energy, which started in the mid 20th century, hasn’t been able to cross over to be the primary source for energy for any of the rich countries. Nuclear energy is not cheap. Even after the Price-Anderson Act in the States that limits liability, the safety standard for building a nuclear plant in the States is so high that not a single nuclear plant was built after the 1970s. There is a reason for this. If a country like USA thinks hundred times before building a nuclear plant, then a country like Bangladesh need to understand why we are spending billions of dollars and is there any alternative school of thought available?

        This article merely states that. And FYI, this article nowhere talks about a solar plant that you argued for, but a decentralized system of energy. Please read the article carefully and see the academic citations before making adamant, defensive, and blind pro-nuke statements.

      • mys6984 on December 25, 2011 at 1:26 am

        I think the writer mentioned clearly:

        “It is true that fossil fuels or nuclear power both are capable of producing an enormous amount of energy which is crucial for rapid industrialization and heavy manufacturing. It is true that in an exponentially expanding growth economy, solar and wind offer no practical alternative to fossil fuel and nuclear power. It is also true that the adoption of renewable energy, such as the construction of a 1000 MW equivalent PV solar panel (equivalent to a Ruppoor Nuclear plant) may turn out to be costlier than a nuclear power plant (at this point).”

        So I don’t think the writer mentioned anywhere that solar is the only solution, or solar is great for urban need or industrialization. What is good about the article is it challenged the idea of over consumption of energy, and proposed alternative way of economic thinking and talked about renewable energy as a possible solution to a sane and sensible economy.

    • Wasim frm Pabna on December 24, 2011 at 6:08 pm

      I think so.

  19. SNH on December 22, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    According to various studies:
    - It takes around $800 million to set up a 1000 MW gas based plant.
    - It takes around $1400 million to set up a 1000 MW coal fired plant.
    - It takes around $2-3 billion (around $2000-3000 million) to set up a 1000 MW nuclear power plant.[2] So it is clear that nukes cost way more in terms of capital investment.

    Then, how much does it cost to import fuel for coal fired / gas fired turbines?

    Again, this article is useless! You lack scientific knowledge. sorry!

    • dipen drong on December 24, 2011 at 12:50 am

      I think the article is very clear in cost comparison. Firstly, it pointed out that a nuke plant costs more than fuel and gas based plants in terms of initial investment. And then it debunked the myth of the so-called ‘cheaper’ per unit production cost for a nuclear plant. It has also pointed out that the per unit production cost for a nuclear plant is rising while the same for solar is declining, (this piece of info is also backed by sufficient research).

      But as far as I can see, the article never supported coal burning in any case or offered coal burning as the only solution. That’s why the writer asked, “can we have a coal free nuke free future?” And she did a good job exploring the potential of solar power as an alternative (again supported by scientific research data).

      As a student of environmental science, I found this article very helpful as it gives the economic/social perspectives and it is indeed a very well researched piece.

      • dipen drong on December 24, 2011 at 12:59 am

        Also since you mentioned the import cost of coal and fuel, why did you forget to mention about the worldwide rising cost of uranium?

        • AA on December 25, 2011 at 3:48 pm

          The writer has no idea what she is writing about. The really unforutnate thing of our culture is that one is an expert in everything other than their own subject.

          Without energy we will go back to the days of the bullock cart and the sail boats. But unfortunately that option is not open for us anymore.

          We could have survived with a population of 40 million but with 160 Million we need big integrated power stations and nuclear power station one or more is one of the many options.

  20. SNH on December 22, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    This is an useless article.

    Solar energy is not viable in any sense.

  21. john sumit on December 22, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    Well written. We do understand your point, but can our politicians?

    • Baset on December 24, 2011 at 6:10 pm

      Well written yes – but a general essay. No new angles, no real depth. Is the writer fishing for compliments?

  22. afsan chowdhury on December 22, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    “A big economy eats up big energy, a small economy eats up smaller.
    Therefore, it is important to look for small and localised solutions, rather than humongous, highly centralised, and filthy rich projects.”

    Very well said but what are the options? I think in the West where I am involved in activism including against nuclear power, the noise of protest is louder than the sounds of alternative options. Of course nuclear power is bad but in the end it may win because people will demand more energy for consumption.

    I think the movement for clean and safe energy lacks people from the economics and social sectors. As a result, proving nuclear power is bad is completed but not much else. I have addressed meetings where I find everyone is a scientist whose solutions are very detached from possible reality and in the end people go back to what is available.

    We need a document on alternative options, their application methods, market feasibility and so on so that it convinces the people and the politicians both. As a low energy consumer country, Bangladesh will actually have a much easier sail to move away from nuclear options but where is the convincing piece of paper saying that other things work and this is how?

    • BeerBangali on December 23, 2011 at 12:29 am

      Afsan Bhai, good and convincing argument. Only one point is missing. Big project means big kickbacks that facilitates the process of sharing the spoils in every phase of the project starting from feasibility study to implementation, entering the production and even after that.

  23. aziz on December 22, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Good and timely post. All concerned should consider alternatives to nuke.

  24. Showkat on December 22, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    But the sad part is our policymakers don’t have the common sense to understand these facts.

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