The partial meltdowns in three Japanese nuclear reactors in Fukushima and the subsequent radiation leaks have raised concerns around the world about the future of nuclear power.
The Indian government is unlikely to revisit the case for nuclear power in the aftermath of this accident given that the country's massive energy requirement over the coming decades does not give it the luxury of overlooking any source. But it will have to make a concerted effort to alleviate public concerns, especially in the areas where new reactors have been proposed.
In this context, LV Krishnan, former Director, Safety Research and Health Physics programmes at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam, spoke to Sify.com in an exclusive interview about the implications of the crisis for India and the challenges that lie ahead.
Would it be fair to say that the events at Fukushima constitute the worst nuclear accident apart from Chernobyl?
Yes, it is so in terms of the release of radioactive material into the environment. In 1957, there was a similar release in a reactor in UK at Windscale. This was a reactor in which a stream of air was used to remove heat from the core. The hot air was then released directly into the atmosphere through a tall chimney. Once, the uranium metal fuel in the core caught fire and burned for some time. A lot of radioactive material was vented into the atmosphere.
But, that was from a single reactor of much smaller power. Here, in Fukushima, the releases are occurring from three reactors larger in size. There is no other known case other than that at Chernobyl.
In Image: This handout picture released from Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) on March 12, 2011 and received through Jiji Press shows the broken building of TEPCO's No.1 nuclear reactor at the Fukushima nuclear power plant at Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture. An explosion sent plumes of smoke spewing from the ageing Japanese nuclear power plant on March 12, raising fears of radioactive meltdown a day after the massive quake struck the facility's cooling system.