Debate: Unclear on Nuclear?
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South Asian countries have never been more interested in exploring the potential of nuclear energy. A raft of collaborations are bringing technology and expertise from long-established players like the US, France, China and Russia to South Asian partners. Nuclear promoters promise abundant and clean energy to this fast developing and energy deficient region –they often challenge those who favour distributed renewable energy options such as solar and wind.
As the public health and environmental safety issues of nuclear energy continue to be debated in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident of 2011, SciDev.Net brings together an expert panel to discuss critical nuclear issues in South Asia.
R. Rajaraman is emeritus professor of physics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. An expert in nuclear disarmament and civilian nuclear energy technology, he co-chairs the International Panel on Fissile Materials. Rajaraman has taught and done research in physics for four decades at such places as Cornell, Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, MIT, and CERN, Geneva. He has written on fissile material production in South Asia, prospects for Civil Defence and Early Warning systems in India, and radiological effects of nuclear weapon accidents. His current interest is the new initiative towards a nuclear weapon free world. He argues that the dangers of producing nuclear energy must be statistically quantified and should not be based on anecdotal evidence.
M.V. Ramana is currently with the Nuclear Futures Laboratory and the Program on Science and Global Security at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University. Ramana is the author of The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India (Penguin Books, 2012) and co-editor of Prisoners of the Nuclear Dream (Orient Longman, 2003). He is a member of the International Panel on Fissile Materials and the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Ramana argues that nuclear energy is not an option for India as it is costly, unsafe and unsustainable.
Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy is now Distinguished Professor of Physics and Mathematics at Forman Christian College, Lahore. With Ph.D in nuclear physics from MIT, he is a sponsor of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and a member of the Permanent Monitoring Panel on Terrorism of the World Federation of Scientists. In 2013, he was made a member of the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board on Disarmament. In his piece for SciDev.Net, Hoodbhoy argues that South Asia should opt for solar and wind over risky nuclear power.
Nalaka Gunawardene, our moderator for this debate, has worked in media and development spheres for over 25 years both in Sri Lanka and at Asian regional level. He has variously been a news reporter, feature writer, radio presenter, TV host, documentary film producer, foreign correspondent and journalist trainer. In his most recent South Asia Analysis Blog, Gunawardene emphasises that as South Asia pursues nuclear opportunities, safety concerns must get priority.
Also joining us
Md Shafiqul Islam, associate professor of nuclear engineering, University of Dhaka, has expertise on nuclear safety and security. He has published more than 50 scientific articles on related issues and is author of the volume ‘Nuclear Energy, Known-Unknown Facts’. He currently teaches courses in nuclear power plant engineering, nuclear accidents and safety. His research interests include design of physical protection systems, nuclear security culture and thermohydraulic safety of nuclear reactors.
S. Rajagopal has served as secretary to India’s Atomic Energy Commission and as controller of the Bhabha Atomic Research Center at Trombay, Mumbai. He has headed the technical liaison mission of the Department of Atomic Energy in Paris, France. He is presently advisor to the Centre for Study of Science, Technology and Policy, Bangalore