Even as India struggles to join the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group of nations – over its failure to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – and as uncertainty continues to surround the global nuclear industry post-Fukushima, Narendra Modi’s government has committed itself to nuclear energy in a big way. In May, India’s cabinet approved plans to build 10 new atomic reactors that will take the country’s nuclear capacity to 63,000 megawatts by 2032.
This push to fast-track a domestic nuclear industry will not only help India to achieve long-term energy security and self-sufficiency – it will also contribute significantly towards its sustainable development goals with regard to clean energy.
Misgivings over proliferation
Despite an impeccable non-proliferation record, apprehensions about India diverting supplied materials and technologies – in order to expand her atomic weapons arsenal – persist in sections of the international community. Hirotaka Matsushima, Director of the International Peace Promotion Department in Hiroshima – a city whose mayor opposed last year’s Indo-Japan civil nuclear agreement on the grounds that it hindered the cause of nuclear disarmament – told Asia Times that concerns remain about nuclear materials, technologies and associated equipment being potentially used by India for the development of deadly nuclear arms.
Anil Kakodkar, an eminent nuclear scientist and the former Chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Commission, disputes these claims. Welcoming New Delhi’s commitment to new projects, he says the world recognizes India as a responsible player in the domain of atomic energy.
Indigenous thrust justified
The Modi government’s “make in India” nuclear push has the benefit of being economically beneficial to domestic suppliers, while the scale of the program means there will be economies of scale. Nuclear experts have argued that previous delays in home-made projects were not due to deficiencies in knowledge or in India’s technological base, but because of a serious lack of government incentives and planning.
Since 1983, India has built 16 nuclear power units – with a maximum capacity of 540MW – using purely indigenous technology, materials and equipment. And between 2000 and 2010, New Delhi focused its attention on design and construction of larger – 700MW and higher – nuclear power plants.
“Over the decades, India has established a successful track record of designing, constructing and operating Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor-based nuclear power plants economically, safely and with high capacity factors,” says Satinder Singh Bajaj, the former Chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, the country’s civil nuclear safety regulator.
Indeed, India’s fleet of indigenously designed and constructed reactors have shown remarkable results. One Indian plant clocked over 700 days of nonstop operation – the second-longest run registered globally.
India is on the verge of passing a nuclear milestone by commissioning an ultra-modern, indigenously-designed fast-breeder reactor (FBR) capable of converting atomic waste into usable fuel. The reactor thus generates more atomic fuel than it consumes, ensuring a renewable and unlimited supply of clean electricity.
“This FBR version uses a mixture of uranium and plutonium oxides as fuel and produces just enough plutonium to sustain operation without the need for external plutonium input,” explained LV Krishnan, former Director of the Safety Research Group at the Chennai-based Indira Gandhi Center for Atomic Research. Later designs will be adjusted to exploit India’s strategic Thorium reserve, he adds.
Indian nuclear scientists have already achieved industrial-scale capability for large-scale deployment of Thorium-fueled reactors and have even designed a prototype reactor that can produce electricity for two years continuously without refueling and control maneuvering.
Kakodkar, the pioneer of this project believes “accelerated growth of both first stage (Thermal reactors) and second stage (Fast reactors) will lead to advancement in introduction of Thorium reactors.” Krishnan, however, cautions that its success hinges on the availability of sufficient plutonium.
India’s dalliance with novel nuclear innovation can help position her as a leading supplier of cutting edge technology that is safe, efficient and convenient, as well as unique reactors capable of revolutionizing the industry. Bajaj contends that India has always put special emphasis on safety mechanisms to address “beyond design basis” events and “station blackouts.”
Krishnan believes a number of safety features make India-made reactors unique. These include double containment to minimize radioactive release; extra space for holding radioactive waste; adequate natural cooling features; capability to withstand absence of off-site power; and special features to guard against natural calamities.
Not so, Seema. Any addition of capacity to grid power is not only irresponsible, but also damaging to grid as well as national security. Off-grid is the sane policy for all nations.
Off-grid power is not only reliant on renewable energy leading to cleaner environment, but also far more affordable owing to lower component costs as well as storage battery developments. The nation avoids building oil pipelines, transmission towers, avoiding the problem of nuclear waste disposal, and scores of other benefits.
Renewable energy is there, for the taking. The sum total of all power generated by fossil and nuclear fuels does not add up to even 1% of solar and wind power available to the earth.
I will direct you to my blog on the subject at http://www.energy-asset.com.
The only way to be truly self-sufficient is to go renewable off-grid power: no need to import oil, gas, LNG. No need for drilling for oil. Completely independent of nuclear and fossil fuels. The country that goed off-grid also generates millions of new jobs, as in manufacturing renewable components, installing systems, and maintenance of those systems.
I can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congratulations to Modi government. In an era of destructive green hysteria in the West, he is chosing the sane path to energy abundance and prosperity. The fact is that energy storage technology is not nearly mature enough to enable dependable large scale electricity supply from wind and solar, as the failure of the German energy expiriment proves. Other countries does not have as much money to waste as Germany, and should learn from their example, and opt for reliable proven and safe nuclear instead.
In fact those rats are pushing for more more nuclear weapons and WoMD
Why not study China’s innovative and advanced energy policies? It is difficult if not impossible to meet base load requirements with only renewable energy. Energy storage systems like batteries and pumped storage are comparatively expensive.
You can see evidently in Kalpakkam, tarapur, Jadugoda and most of these places. One of the main causes of cancer is Ionizing radiation according to WHO, nuclear reactors are a source of ionizing radiation, so the effects are horrible.
Modi is shining again.
Nuclear power in India has its vices despite of global dependence on Nuclear power for energy production and self sufficiency. Despite the high level of sophistication of the safety systems of nuclear power plants the human aspect has always an impact. Facing an unexpected event or managing a nuclear accident we don’t have any guarantee that decisions we took are always the best. Two good examples are Chernobyl and Fukushima. The increasing percentage of cancer disease and death toll due to radiation exposures at or around nuclear facilities should be an eye opener for the government of India and rest of the international community.
For actual its not nuclear energy self-sufficiency, it is nuclear bomb making sufficiency where one can clearly see their desire to be a hegemonic power. If it would have been nuclear energy sufficiency than they must have gotten it way back.
India likes to compare its politicians with the Xi dude. By starting as a tortoise, the Xi will have 70,000 MW nuclear power capacity by 2020.
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