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`States not keen on nuclear energy due to high tariffs'

Our Bureau

Nuclear power forms around 2 per cent of the country's total installed capacity compared to 85 per cent of the costlier and more polluting coal-based thermal power or 13 per cent formed by gas-based projects.

Bangalore , Nov. 25

STATE electricity boards may be strapped for power but there are few takers among them for nuclear energy, largely because of its high tariffs, according to Dr Raja Ramanna, nuclear scientist and former Minister of State for Defence.

But the high cost of tariffs is due to the Rs 700-crore perpetual loans that the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd has taken from the Centre at high rates of interest of 8-17 per cent, he said.

Dr Ramanna, currently Director, National Institute of Advanced Studies, was addressing the southern regional workshop here to review the GREEN India 2047 project launched by Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI) eight years ago.

The tariffs can be lowered if the loans are wiped out, an effort the NPCIL is making, Dr Ramanna said. According to him, the thorium or plutonium reactors would be a better option than uranium.

Nuclear power forms around 2 per cent of the country's total installed capacity compared to 85 per cent of the costlier and more polluting coal-based thermal power or 13 per cent formed by gas-based projects.

According to Dr Ramanna, on the positive side, nuclear power plants in use across the world are getting extension of life up to 40-50 years and the Tarapore Atomic Power Station, for one, has got a ten-year extension of life from the originally planned 20 years.

TERI's report on sustainable development, DISHA, projects that efficiency improvements and lower T&D losses will help to bring down the demand by over 20 per cent by 2047.

The Director-General of TERI, Dr R.K. Pachauri, said southern India, home to the biodiversity hotspot, the Western Ghats among others, has high air pollution levels due to increasing vehicular growth in urban areas and indiscriminate household fuel use in rural areas.

The overall forest cover has fallen during 1989-99 especially in Andhra Pradesh.

On the positive side, Bangalore and Chennai, he said, are switching to using LPG in autorickshaws, but consecutive drought, poor filling of reservoirs, drinking water scarcity and low availability of cattle fodder are issues of concern.

The GREEN India project was launched in 1995 to take a comprehensive look at the country's natural resources. TERI has undertaken a review of the 1997-2002 period to see whether there has been a positive shift towards the sustainable path, Dr Pachauri said.

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