India has declared that nuclear energy is vital for meeting the challenge of climate change and suggested supporting efforts to promote its public acceptance amid growing opposition to nuclear power and plans by some countries to phase out their atomic generation plants.
"Nuclear power remains an important option to meet the challenges of increased energy demand, address concerns about climate change, redress volatile fossil fuel prices and ensure security of the energy supply," Sandeep Kumar Bayyapu, a first secretary in India's UN Mission told the General Assembly on Friday.
Therefore, he said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) should support efforts by countries to build public acceptance of nuclear energy and continue to help them start or expand nuclear energy programmes.
Nuclear reactors do not produce greenhouse gases like power plants using coal and, therefore, can increase electricity generation without contributing to climate change.
They can provide a steady supply of electricity because unlike solar and wind power sources, nuclear plants can operate when there is no sun or wind and are not affected by fluctuations in water availability like hydroelectric plants.
To meet one of the points of opposition to nuclear power plants, Bayyapu advocated building advanced fission reactors, including fast reactors, that use nuclear fuel more efficiently and reduce radioactive waste.
While speaking during the debate on the IAEA's annual report, he presented thorium-based technologies as solutions to other objections to nuclear plants.
Bayyapu said that thorium-based fuel cycles and technologies are inherently less susceptible to be used for weapons production and can also provide enhanced passive safety features.
According to the Department of Atomic Energy, India is planning to more than treble its nuclear electricity generation from the current 6,780 megawatts to 22,480 megawatts by 2031.
Of the nine reactors under construction, one is an advanced fast breeder reactor with 500 megawatt capcity being built at Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu.
The fast breeder reactor uses thorium to create uranium 233 for power generation.
A test reactor of the fast breeder type is already operating in Kalpakkam.
Thorium is more abundantly found in India compared to uranium, for which the country has to rely on imports.
India has seen opposition to nuclear power plants, especially the one at Kudankulam in southern Tamil Nadu.
Many countries in Europe are moving away from nuclear energy citing its risks.
Germany is committed to phasing out all nuclear power plants by 2022 and Belgium, Italy and Switzerland also plan to shut theirs down.
(Arul Louis can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @arulouis)