Beyond Nuclear Deal-1

As most of the columnists wished, Man Mohan Singh won the trust vote. It is now up to the efficiency and diplomatic effectiveness of the government to get the Indo-US Nuclear Deal move fast through various steps to operationalise it, at least till India starts getting supplies of sufficient uranium for its existing nuclear plants as well as for those in construction.

As Prem Shankar Jha reveals, “General Electric and Westinghouse are reported to have $14 billion worth of agreements in the pipeline for setting up power plants. Within a year of the formalities being completed, agreements for setting up 50,000 MW of nuclear power plants should be in place.” Even BHEL and L&T, if not some more Indian companies plan to go into nuclear power generation equipment manufacturing business with possibility of many smaller vendors setting up supporting manufacturing facilities for related components. Indian people will expect big business houses of Birla, Tata, and Ambanis with deep pockets to get into this high-tech manufacturing of power equipment besides focusing on lucrative telecom and retail sectors.

Equally serious activities on shop floor, R&D labs, and in fields must go on to develop alternative sources of energy-solar, wind, bio-fuels, and hydel that have huge potential in the country.India’s renewable energy potential is above 1,200,000 MW. With sunshine for more than 300 days in most parts of the country, and the reducing solar power cost, India can become a major user of this renewable clean energy. Solar energy is available at 20 MW per sq/km. If European Union scientists can work on an ambitious plan to harness solar energy under a £37 billion plan to power the EU with the Saharan sun, why can’t India’s scientists and technocrats make Rajasthan a power surplus state?

Hydel projects may have huge potential of 150,000 MW (current 35,908MW). But controversies related to environmental and rehabilitation issues cause delays and hold up large hydel projects. Smaller ones of capacities up to 25 MW with not much of those problems can provide quicker answers to power shortages. Interestingly, many small hydel projects can come up down the stream on a single water source using the same water resource in series without much loss. But as much as I know the administrative red tapes and corruption are withholding quick implementation of these zero fuel cost projects.

Coal based thermal power stations will remain for many years India’s main stay, but the new ones can use natural gas as fuel. India’s proven reserves are 1.08 trillion cubic metres (US has 600 billion cubic feet). Technocrats must look into viability to integrate the clean technology in the existing plants and upgrade them to keep in operation for longer time. India perhaps may not afford to close down these plants, Gore has asked US to do.

The scientific community keeps on proposing many other sources of power generation. India’s premier institution must work on providing feasible solutions to commercialize the innovations. One such little explored area is biomass, the waste that we as well as nature create regularly.

However, the speed of execution of the Indian projects must be at par with the global best. If metro, airports and petro refinery can come up faster than schedule, why can’t the power plants? Man Mohan Singh government and the opposition must at least agree and come out with some solution to the damaging delays of the large number of projects in hand that if once executed can change the face of the country. Can Indian enterprises afford taking ten years for a thermal power plant when China can do it in 2-3 years, when even Finance Minister wishes so strongly to emulate and compete with China? Why can’t the people of India demand a trust vote on this issue? Let us understand if a region becomes power surplus, its GDP growth goes higher at least by 2-3%, if not more automatically.

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