French President, Emmanuel Macron, might witness a game-changing moment in India as we go bullish on nuclear energy and say goodbye to our energy crisis for good. As he plans to visit India in early 2023, there is a newfound sense of urgency to expedite the construction of 1,650 MW nuclear power reactors at Jaitapur in Maharashtra, which could become the nation’s largest nuclear power site once completed with a total capacity of 9,900 MW.

India is the world’s second most populous country, with over 1.4 billion people, and it is projected to be the world’s most populous country by 2023. India is also the world’s fastest-growing major economy, with an annual growth rate of 8.9%. India must ramp up its energy production to sustain this rapid economic growth. And for this, nuclear energy is a safe, reliable, and carbon-free source of energy that can help India achieve its energy and climate goals.

Since the last few decades, nuclear energy has faced skepticism and fierce resistance in Europe and the western world at large. Influential non-profits such as Greenpeace lobby against nuclear energy and claim that it “has no place in a safe, clean, sustainable future. Nuclear energy is both expensive and dangerous, and just because nuclear pollution is invisible doesn’t mean it’s clean. Renewable energy is better for the environment and the economy and doesn’t come with the risk of a nuclear meltdown.” They are, of course, wrong and wrong by a long margin.

Accidents at nuclear power plants are extremely rare. In the nearly 60 years that nuclear power plants have been in operation, there has only been one major accident: at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan in 2011. This accident was caused by a tsunami, which knocked out power to the plant’s pumps and led to nuclear fuel meltdown. However, the safety systems worked as they were designed to, and no one was injured or killed by the release of radiation.

Talking about the Chernobyl disaster, it was a failure of the top-down government system of the Soviets and not of nuclear power. The Soviet Union’s centrally-planned economy meant that decisions about safety and risk were made by few at the top, without much input from those who handled the technology. This resulted in a culture of secrecy and cover-ups, preventing the spread of information and the implementation of necessary safety measures. The Chernobyl disaster was a direct result of this top-down decision-making approach. If the Soviet Union had better institutions, the tragedy could have been avoided.

European politicians chose to ignore these facts and closed their nuclear plants. And now they are stuck with Russian gas. Nuclear is still their best shot — along with fossil fuels, only because they chose to close down their nuclear plants — at reducing their dependence on Russia. Still, European policymakers have forced a rapid transition from fossil fuels and nuclear energy to renewable sources. The problem is that renewable resources are not ready yet, which has caused an energy shortage, leading to price spikes and gas shortages. European policymakers should allow energy buyers to sign long-term gas import contracts, reverse nuclear phaseouts, and give natural gas a new look to make their respective country’s energy secure and independent.

If such discourse has hijacked the energy policy narrative in Europe and managed to cause an energy shortage there, it can happen to India too. We have active anti-nuclear energy movements and chapters of anti-growth organizations in our country, including Greenpeace. Thankfully, India is choosing to invest in nuclear power. Even the pandemic did not stop the government from progressing on this path. Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions Jitendra Singh announced in the Rajya Sabha that by 2024, nine new nuclear reactors would be up and running, with a capacity of 9000 MW. This is in addition to the 12 reactors approved during the pandemic.

This is the right thing to do, and we must continue investing in nuclear power and stand against any unfair criticism. Nuclear power is a low-carbon energy source that can help India reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. Nuclear power plants do not emit greenhouse gases or air pollutants and have a very small land footprint. In comparison, coal-fired power plants are a major source of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. As researchers have found, “Compared with nuclear power, coal is responsible for five times as many worker deaths from accidents, 470 times as many deaths due to air pollution among members of the public, and more than 1,000 times as many cases of serious illness, according to a study of the health effects of electricity generation in Europe.”

Investing in nuclear energy would also help India achieve energy security and independence. India is currently heavily reliant on coal imported from other countries. This dependence on imported coal leaves India vulnerable to price fluctuations and supply disruptions. In contrast, India can build nuclear power plants to use indigenous uranium resources, providing the country with a secure and reliable energy source.

One can switch to solar, wind, or hydroelectric power, but these energy sources have limitations. Solar and wind energy are variable and intermittent, meaning they cannot be a constant and reliable energy source. Hydroelectric power causes floods, which in turn, causes damage to people’s homes and their way of life. Hydropower also blocks sediment flow and disrupts fish movement, which negatively impacts the local ecosystem. In contrast, nuclear power is the only carbon-free energy source that is scalable, reliable, and available today.

India must increase its energy production to maintain its status as a world power and leader in economic growth. The world would have had 72 billion more tonnes of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere if it were not for nuclear reactors. Imagine what our county — and the world — can be if most of our energy is produced using nuclear power.

Nuclear power is a proven and commercially available technology that can provide India with the clean and reliable energy it needs to power its economy and meet its climate goals. We must continue to be bullish on nuclear energy and ignore the critics whose agendas are based on the degrowth movement rather than science.


Adnan Abbasi is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) degree in Social and Political Science from Ahmedabad University. He is the Regional Coordinator for Academics & Research with Students for Liberty and a Writing Fellow at Students for Liberty’s Fellowship for Freedom in India.