There’s a scene in The Simpsons Movie where Homer, on his way to empty the silo full of his pet pig’s poo, gets a call from his friend Lennie telling him that the local doughnut store is giving away free doughnuts. Weak, weak Homer, unable to wait in the queue for the town dump, drops the silo in the lake instead and heads off for free doughnuts.
Remind you of anybody? Replace Homer for the nuclear industry. Replace the doughnut store with India. Replace the silo full of pig poo for the nuclear industry’s already heavy responsibilities – the waste, the expense, the safety issues. Instead of clearing up the mess they’ve already made, the nuclear industry is falling over itself to get to India to create more trouble. Anybody laughing?
The latest Homer to go tearing off to the doughnut store leaving a mess behind him is French president Nicholas Sarkozy. He’s been frantically trying to grab a piece of India’s nuclear action before another Homer, the US, can rubber stamp its own nuclear deal with India in Congress so American companies can compete. With the Indian nuclear industry worth $80 billion, there are going to be a lot of Homers yelling ‘woohoo!’
India wants to quadruple its electricity generation by 2032 to 700 gigawatts and yet nuclear energy is expected to fulfil less than 10 per cent (63 GW) of that total. And yet $15 billion will build enough renewable energy plants to produce 15 GW of electricity. Factor that up by five to $75 billion and you have renewables producing 75 GW and outperforming the projected 63GW of nuclear.
Wind power is exceeding output projections and expectations in India. A 2002-2007 projection of a 3 GW electricity output was actually doubled by 2006. Wind is expected to provide an extra 10GW of capacity by 2012. All with a planned subsidy of a tiny $1 billion from the Indian government. Can any of the 40 nuclear reactors that India wants be expected to do the same?
And have the Indian government and the industry crunched the numbers? Eighty billion dollars just isn’t enough to build 40 reactors and generate 63 GW of electricity. The French disastrously over-budget and behind-schedule EPR reactor that India wants to buy costs $6.5 billion meaning you can only buy 12 with India’s budget. Twelve reactors generating 1600MW only gives 19 GW, not the 63 required.
So why the push for nuclear in India when renewable alternatives are so much more attractive? Why were so many countries willing to allow the country access to nuclear technology without it signing the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty? Vested interests? Aggressive lobbying from the nuclear industry? The charms of the industry’s sharpest salesman, Mr Sarkozy? It’s something of a mystery.
Which leaves us with Homer, tearing across town, a mess in his wake, on his way to get his hands on something that is bad for him. Life imitates art once more.