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Quintessence of Magazines

What prompted India to go Indigenous in Nuclear Power? [DownToEarth 1-15 July 2017]

The government's sudden interest in domestic technology is designed to pressurise the international community into allowing India NSG membership.
By IT's QoM Squade
July 13, 2017

Contents

  • Introduction
  • Nuclear power in India
  • MNCs interested in India’s nuclear power
  • India’s nuclear story
  • What prompted the government to build new nuclear plants?
  • Significance of building 10 nuclear plants
  • Scepticism
  • Conclusion

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GS (M) Paper-3: “Infrastructure: Energy”

 

Introduction:

The Union government on May 17 decided to go indigenous and approved 10 nuclear plants to be built by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL).

Nuclear power in India:

  • As per the national energy policy, India plans to have 14.5 gigawatt (GW) nuclear capacity installed by 2024.
  • The share of nuclear power in the total energy mix should reach 25 per cent by 2050, as per the policy.
  • At present, the country has installed nuclear power capacity of just 6.78 GW. The 10 proposed plants will add another 7 GW.

MNCs interested in India’s nuclear power:

  • India has been in talks with three foreign players—Westinghouse Electric Company, owned by Toshiba (for setting up of two plants in Mithi Virdi in Gujarat), Areva (for a 1,650 MW nuclear plant in Jaitapur, Maharashtra), and GE-Hitachi (for setting up of two plants in Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh).

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India’s nuclear story:

The country has unsuccessfully spent over 12 years trying to procure nuclear reactors from other countries.

  • July 18, 2005 India-US nuclear understanding unveiled.
  • March 7, 2006 India tables a Bill in Parliament to separate its civilian and strategic nuclear power plants.
  • October 10, 2008 India and the US sign the 123 Agreement for peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
  • May 20, 2009 Larsen & Toubro signs a memorandum of understanding with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy for the construction of nuclear power plants in India.
  • August 30, 2010 Parliament passes the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010, which creates a mechanism for compensating victims from a nuclear incident.
  • April 10, 2015 Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd and private company Areva enter into a Pre-Engineering Agreement for the proposed Jaitapur nuclear power project.
  • December 22, 2015 During Prime Minister’s visit to Russia, he signs a Programme of Action for Localisation of Manufacturing in India for Russian-designed nuclear power plants
  • June 12, 2015 General Insurance Corporation of India, along with other Indian insurance companies, launches the India Nuclear Insurance Pool with `1,500 crore. It will provide insurance to cover the liability as prescribed under the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010.

What prompted the government to build new nuclear plants?

According to experts,

  • The uncertainty in the global nuclear market prompted the government to build new nuclear plants.
  • A number of companies that were supposed to enter India’s nuclear sector are under financial duress. This certainly is a reason behind India’s decision to move on with its indigenous technology.

Significance of building 10 nuclear plants:

  • Before the Indo-US nuclear deal, Indian power plants were running at 55 to 60 per cent of their capacity because the country did not have sufficient uranium reserves. Now, India can import uranium from Russia, Australia, Canada and Kazakhstan. With all possibilities, the new 10 plants will use imported fuels.
  • The decision to build nuclear power plants is part of India’s strategy to enter the NSG. The sudden interest in domestic technology is designed to put some pressure on the international community in terms of NSG membership—foreign reactors will all be under safeguards but domestic ones have no such obligation. If the world wants India’s reactors under the International Atomic Energy Agency’s watch, they will have to stop being so dismissive of Indian concerns.

Scepticism:

Experts believe that

  • India is gradually realising that importing nuclear reactors is not financially feasible for the country, especially when other energy sources are getting cheaper by the day.
  • A nuclear plant using imported reactors is roughly four times more expensive than all solar power plant is ₹8-10 crore. Coal power plants are the cheapest with an installation cost of just `5-6 crore per MW.
  • Logically, the cost of electricity generation is the highest in nuclear plants. The generation cost of coal power plants using modern technology is around `3.20 per unit. For solar plants, it is ₹2.60-6 and for nuclear power plant, it is ₹6.50-9.30 per unit.
  • Unlike nuclear plants, solar plants do not have hazardous leftovers.

Conclusion:

  • India’s diplomatic endeavours in the nuclear realm should be viewed with pride. It is the only country that does not conform to the non-proliferation treaty and yet has access to civilian nuclear technology from various countries.
[Ref: DownToEarth]

 

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