Saturday, September 15, 2012

Rahul Siddharthan on nuclear power

in The Hindu. The article seems to be pitching for nuclear power. There have been various concerns about India's Nuclear Liability Bill and the safety record after the Bhopal tragedy. The pressure from USA suggests that possibly, US companies may get some of the the contracts and it is not clear whether different methods of harnessing nuclear energy developed in other countries are considered. Apart from that there is a need to compare the pricing with other technologies. John Quiggin says in The End of the Nuclear Renaissance
"Meanwhile, the cost of PV has already fallen well below that of nuclear and is set to fall further. The average retail price of solar cells as monitored by the Solarbuzz group fell from $3.50/watt to $2.43/watt over the course of the year, and a decline to prices below $2.00/watt seems inevitable. For large-scale installations, prices below $1.00/watt are now common. In some locations, PV has reached grid parity, the cost at which it is competitive with coal or gas-fired generation. More generally, it is now evident that, given a carbon price of $50/ton, which would raise the price of coal-fired power by 5c/kWh, solar PV will be cost-competitive in most locations."
It is possible that John Quiggin is unduly optimistic and it would be good to have other opinions. There was no price comparisons in Rahul's article and I hope that he will include them in the updates in his blog.
P.S. There is a follow up post by Rahul Sddharthan Reply to Prof Atul Choksi and comment by one Anonyo Maitra who makes a point that has not been mentioned so far:"However, my fundamental problem with your mode of argument is not a scientific one. It is that you consider the problem a scientific one at all. It is in reality a fundamental question about democracy and development."  The whole comment by Maitra is worth reading, I think.


L said...

"Solar panels are expensive, inefficient, and depend on rare earth elements, the mining of which, again, causes environmental damage." As far as I know, solar PV panels do not use rare earths. They can use low grade silica, though those pv panels are inefficient. The more efficient ones use crystalline silicon. Amorphous silicon panels are also becoming cost effective. There are some solar pv installations that are feeding to the grid.
If the kind of money pumped into nuclear research had been put into research in solar-pv, we would have got cheap, efficient solar power by now. In addition, dye-sensitised solar harvesting, artificial photosynthesis could have been viable options now, if they had been funded well enough.

gaddeswarup said...

Thanks for the input. My backgroud is in pure mathematics. Though I try do some background check on the topios I post, I really am not sure of all the complexities. Many of these issues involving biotechnology, nuclear power etc need technical knowledge, constant checking of the politics involved but at the same time people need some information from the scientists. I wonder whether pooilng the resources of scientist, like in the blog 'Law and Other Things', may be the way to go.

gaddeswarup said...

The statement about solar panels seems correct at the moment but there is hope

L said...

Yes, there is hope. But money is needed for the research.
(BTW,two things-- in the context of chemistry, rare-earths usually denotes the elements following Lanthanide in the periodic table and not just those elements that are rare. Second-I am no expert in solar pv).
With some more technical breakthroughs, cheap solar pv is possible. Currently, I am told, the best price is around 1$ per watt which is of course rather expensive, but much cheaper than the 12$ it used to cost a few years back. But my hope is in molecules taht can harvest solar energy like in photosynthesis ....if only we could do that, we could get really cheap power.

city said...

thanks for sharing.