Mumbai: Anil Kakodkar, a former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, today pitched for subsidising nuclear energy so that it competes with low-cost solar power.
"Nuclear is also carbon-free, it is sustainable. I think nuclear should also be eligible for that kind of subsidy (enjoyed by solar and wind) as it is also clean," he told PTI on the sidelines of an event here.
Kakodkar was replying to a specific question on whether the subsidies given to solar power result in a competitive disadvantage for nuclear power.
He said the nuclear energy industry should be given access to the clean energy fund which is collected from carbon-spewing activities.
Kakodkar suggested soft loans can be given to the nuclear industry as well which will lead to a "drastic" reduction in tariff.
The scientist said at present there is some clarity on the funding side for nuclear projects as government has made an equity commitment of Rs 3,000 crore, that makes it possible for an investment of up to Rs 10,000 crore in the sector.
The country currently has 22 nuclear reactors across eight plants with an installed capacity of over 6,700 mw. Government has a stated target of increasing the same by nearly 10 times to 63,000 mw by 2032.
Capacity addition in the solar sector has been faster, which now has an installed capacity of 20,000 mw and is aiming for a five times increase to 1,00,000 mw by 2022.
But thanks to subsidy, solar power is much cheaper at Rs 3 a unit while nuclear energy is almost double at over Rs 5 a unit.
"Today, the borrowing for nuclear power is at commercial rates. So compared to that, if you get finances from the clean energy fund, which is a soft loan that solar gets, the tariff will come down drastically," Kakodkar said.
He said both nuclear and solar are clean sources of energy and has to go "hand-in-hand" to solve the large energy needs of the country.
Kakodkar, who was a key member of the team which negotiated a deal with the US which ended the country's nuclear isolation in 2008, said he is "anguished" about a lack of progress despite the deal.
"I have a bit of anguish. We have lost lot of time. Today, it looks to me that government has done everything that it needs to do or could do. It is for the professional community to deliver now," he said.
He said till about two years ago, it was the concerns on the nuclear liability which were impeding the industry. Now, major nuclear power players in the world are facing their own problems which may be impacting us, he said, naming American company Westinghouse and the French Areva.
When asked if popular objection to nuclear energy, as seen in protests in Maharashtra's Jaitapur and Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu, is affecting the industry's interest, he replied in the negative.
He said people's concerns will always remain with any project and have to be tackled through public awareness activities.