Among non-renewables, the world considers nuclear energy as the best option. The generation involves high risk, but the product is clean, not harmful for environment. None would dispute it. Nuclear energy is thought to be the future major source of energy. France has 58 nuclear reactors accounting for the country’s 76 per cent of total domestic generation of energy. In US the share of nuclear energy is 19.5% from as many as 99 reactors. Almost all European countries, considered as the developed world, have considerably higher ratio of nuclear energy generation compared to the developing world. China’s nuclear energy generation counts for only 3.03% while that of India is 3.53%. However, both the Asian giants are pursuing ambitious expansion plans in their nuclear capabilities in order to change the scenario in near future. While China aims at increasing its capability to 80 Giga Watt by 2020, India’s target for the same period is 14.6 GW. There is no going back in the race.
India has nuclear power stations in six states including a 1000 MW plant at Kundankulam in Tamil Nadu. The country’s first atomic power station was set up in 1969 at Tarapur, Maharashtra. The six states having atomic power stations/projects are – Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. All these plants run mainly on uranium imported from countries like Russia, Mongolia, Argentina etc. The country’s uranium reserves are scanty and dwindling. The Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL), a subsidiary of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), has six underground mines and one open pit mine, all in the state of Jharkhand. There are two processing mining cum processing plants at Jaduguda and Turamdih in the state. As part of its expansion plans, a mine and processing plant are under construction at Tummalapalle in Andhra Pradesh. Pre-project activities are in uranium reserves in Karnataka, Telengana, and Meghalaya.
Protests against uranium mining and setting up nuclear reactors are not uncommon in India as well as rest of the globe. There are even research reports about groundwater contamination from such plants and mines. The disaster at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant in 2011 due to a massive earthquake was an alarm call for the whole world. The incident even led to a drastic fall in nuclear outputs in several countries with several countries including Australia opposing nuclear fuel. But the world has not turned its back yet on this major energy source. The UCIL’s plan for setting up a mining and processing plant at Kylleng-Pyndemsohiong-Mawthabah (KPM) is just a very small part of the world vision. Yet the issue of uranium mining in Meghalaya is hanging fire for over a decade. If the overall nuclear record in the world can be safe so far, Meghalaya too may welcome it and let the local communities benefit from the infrastructure bonanza proposed by the government to the region, in lieu of uranium.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on July 16, 2016)