India absent at Euro-Science festival

India is markedly absent in Europe’s largest science conference notwithstanding early discussions between Irish and Indian officials to have a special session showcasing India’s plan to use thorium reserve to generate nuclear power in the long run.

The reason behind India’s refusal to come to Dublin, however, remains unknown. “We talked with India for holding a special partnership session on thorium-based nuclear power and development of nuclear technology. However, it did not realise for some reasons,” Patrick Cunningham, chief scientific adviser to Ireland government and the principal organiser of Euroscience Open Forum 2012 told Deccan Herald. He, however, did not elaborate on the factors which prevented India's participation in the one of the world’s crucial science show. The spokesperson from the Department of Atomic Energy did not respond to queries on why DAE did not want to participate in an event, attended by more than 4200 delegates, mostly from Europe.

With the European Union committing a budget of 8 billion Euro on science research by 2020, most of the European countries are looking for research partners. The ESOF 2012 provides a platform to find out partners for collaborative research.

India’s neighbours, however, did not miss out on this opportunity. The ESOF 2012 has special sessions in partnership with China (future cities) and ASEAN (a year of science) as well as a special one with Africa on using science for economic development.

New Delhi has recently announced its plans to start building a 300 MWe thorium reactor as a part India’s three-stage programme to utilise its vast thorium reserves that can feed thorium reactors for hundreds of years. But in the absence of any commercial thorium reactor anywhere in the world, a team of nuclear scientists and engineers decided to build the first big thorium reactor from scratch.

The proposed reactor will require 52 tonnes of fuel in its core initially. As the subsequent annual fuel requirement is only 4.7 tonnes, India can sustain on its thorium reserve for hundreds of years.
The ESOF’s invitation came because of the curiosity in international scientific community on India’s plans on  thorium utilisation, which poses several engineering challenges.

Nuclear safety, however, remains an important issue for discussions at ESOP 2012 not only because of Fukushima accident last year but also due to some of the European countries’ long-standing ideological opposition to nuclear energy.

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