Monday, March 21, 2011

21st March - The-Week-Gone-By - Japan Tragedy & Lessons for India

I was at Lucknow airport, when I saw some news flash on TV about Japan. Having lived in Japan for 8 years, with many close friends, I was keen to know the details, but had to board a flight. Reaching Bangalore late in the night, I got to know of the massive earthquake & resulting Tsunami (A Japanese word).

Over last one week, a lot has been seen & said about "Quiet Stoicism & Resilience of Japanese People", who have braved this tragedy which is unprecedented in scale & consequences.

Japanese are most prepared of any nation, in fact the Only nation, with most sophisticated 'Early Warning System for Earthquake & Tsunami'. In fact I used to work in a Building called Kajima Intelligent Building, which was designed to withstand earthquake of this magnitude. Because of such high level of engineering & preparedness, Japan managed to limit the loss of life despite such massive Earthquake & Tsunami.

However, Nuclear Disaster has exposed the limits of man made engineering to tame & effectively use this massive source of energy, Nuclear Energy. Radioactive Elements have been all around us, in their natural form. But nature has taken care & kept them hidden miles below in earth's crust under layers of rocks to save humans from harmful effects of radiation. We, humans, have unleashed this destructive power of nature by digging & deploying these Radio Active Substances for Bombs (Hiroshima/Nagasaki) & our energy needs.

Questions are now being asked by Japanese themselves as to why Japan, the only country which suffered Nuclear Holocaust, did not look at alternate & renewable energy sources. Was there a hidden agenda or pure shortsightedness?

After all Japan, which supplies most efficient solar panels to the world, could have researched & deployed SOLAR ENERGY. Japan also sits on Geothermal Minefield, with hot springs all around, which could have been used for GEOTHERMAL ENERGY, like Iceland does. Japan could have gone for WIND ENERGY by placing Wind Turbines in Seas surrounding Japan like Denmark does or even harnessed Tidal Wave Energy.

A research & deployment by Japan of all these Renewable Energy sources could have not only benefited Japan, but our planet as a whole. Japan had technical prowess & economic wherewithal to research & deploy these options. But Nuclear option was pursued by Japan, despite huge opposition from Japanese public, because of heavy handed sales push by USA.

US companies like GE had been ahead in the Nuclear Game and were looking at virgin markets, with huge energy appetite. GE supplied most Nuclear Plants to Japan, including the troubled Fukushima plant.

GE is a leading Nuclear Power Plant Vendor in the world now, which will be supplying Nuclear Power Plants to India too.

There has been NO NEW NUCLEAR PLANT IN THE USA from 1996 due to radiation concerns & huge cost. Hence US Companies are desperately lobbying to sell ABROAD. INDIA was egged on by Nuclear Lobby in the USA and we sign NUCLEAR PACT with USA. We took this as a GIFT from Uncle Sam & proudly joined "The Nuclear Club". This access to Nuclear Technology in itself is OK, but my fear is, Whether India is capable of taming this NUCLEAR BEAST with unimaginable Destructive Power, given our careless attitude, lackluster R&D & corrupt systems.

REAL COST OF NUCLEAR POWER - Nuclear Power is not just the Very Expensive Power but also has the Most Destructive Potential. Can a country like India afford this, both from monetary & risk management perspective.

Another fear is "Too Many Foreign Vendors with no Local Expertise". We have GIFTED First 4 Mega Nuclear Power Plants to US, France & Russia with all using different & some even unproven technologies & operational procedures. Will we be able to manage this diversity & risk, given that we have capped the liability of the supplier to a pittance & operator in our own NPCL, a PSU, with limited expertise of only Indigenous Reactors.

After Japan tragedy, India, like China, Germany & many other nations, should STOP, take a hard & close look at various options, evaluate safety issues & choose the RIGHT WAY FORWARD to ensure our ENERGY SECURITY.

JAPAN incident is an eye opener and as they say - We should not waste any opportunity which arises out of a Tragedy. Hope our politicians & bureaucrats will not let the country down. This nation should fear the worst in the hands of corrupt & inept Netas & Babus.