Opting for nuclear power

The approval given by the International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA) to Bangladesh to set up nuclear power plants, is very helpful to say the least. For Bangladesh has been searching for low cost, environmentally safe and large scale production of power in the backdrop of its fast growing demand for power and its current serious shortfall in power production. The IAEA approval will facilitate the establishment of nuclear power plants in the country. Already, Bangladesh has contracted to build two nuclear plants at Rooppur with mainly Russian financing and exclusive Russian technical supports. Daewoo Engineering, a South Korean industrial giant, has offered to build and operate a fairly large scale nuclear power generation plant in Bangladesh. Major donor organizations also appear to be giving the nod to Bangladesh to set up nuclear power plants.
According to expert assessments, the production of power from coal, oil and natural gas involve polluting processes. Running power stations with oil leads to much emission of greenhouse gases . Emissions from gas-fired power plants are almost similarly polluting. In contrast, power generation from nuclear plants can be true bliss. No long supply chain of raw materials and other inventories are required in operating a major nuclear power plant. Operation of a big coal based power plant to supply a city like Dhaka would require annually about a 1000 kiolmetre line of railways trucks filled with coal along with the back up of mining the coal and the attendant polluting processes spread over large areas. Power generation with oil for a similar purpose would call for at least four or five super tanker loads of heavy imported oil. Power generation with natural gas requires the laying of pipelines extensively from the gas fields to the power station. The supply chain for a nuclear power plant, by comparison, is incredibly shorter and manageable. It can feed on about two trucks of cheap and plentiful uranium imported from stable countries like Canada or Australia. Gas and acid emissions from a nuclear power plant is zero ; toxic ash and dust, none. Only a few bucketful of radioactive wastes may be produced that can be safely disposed away.
A careful study should establish that the fear of nuclear energy from the health and environment perspectives is really exaggerated. Notwithstanding the operation of environmental organizations such as the Greenpeace, the fear of radiation is more in the imaginations of peoples than in the real world. Humans worldwide are always being bombarded with more radiation from natural sources. Radiation from power plants and the like is a very tiny part of the total radiation. According to the UK’s National Radiological Protection Board, doses from the entire nuclear industry amount to les than one per cent of the total exposure to people in UK.
Even if Bangladesh operates several fairly large size nuclear power plants for about a hundred years, the total radioactive wastes from these would probably fill a medium sized ditch. But then the wastes could be put in sealed containers and kept in a bunker like concrete underground storage to ensure against leakage. Nuclear waste does indeed take a long time to decay, but its most dangerous radioactivity is lost within a few years. Much of the remaining waste can be returned to the fuel cycle and re-processed. Even radioactive leakages are not found so dangerous as publicized by environmental lobbies. Russia has agreed to take back spent uranium fuel from Bangladesh after the two nuclear plants go into operation here.
Therefore, the case should be strong for Bangladesh to plan for large scale generation of nuclear power in the country. Nuclear power generation is actually not only environmentally best, but it is also very cheap. Counting out the initial establishment costs, the per unit of electricity to be produced by a nuclear power plant should be much cheaper than a coal or gas fired plant.


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