INDIA’S QUEST FOR NUCLEAR ENERGY The Merits and De-Merits
•Post the Fukushima disaster, many of the G-8 countries decidedto shun nuclear power as a political move, however, as demandfor energy in the West has stabilized, many would of them aren’tlikely to replace the plants that would be decommissioned in thenext decade.
WHY DEVELOPMENT OF CIVILIAN NUCLEAR POWER IS ANECESSITY FOR INDIA & CHINA. By 2050, China’s GDP is expected to be around $70 trillioncompared to about $5 trillion now. Likewise India’s GDP byaround 2050 would be around $38 trillion compared to a mere $1.8 trillion now. Thus China’s GDP could grow around 14 timeswhile the Indian economy would grow around 21 times.• In the last few years China and India have accounted for morethan 70% of increased energy demand of the world. Incidentallyin the last 3 decades, China’s energy demand had alreadyquadrupled and could again jump by a quadruple by 2040. By2035 China and India could consume more than a third of theworld’s energy.
•As global oil production is expected to peak before 2040, both Chinaand India are trying to vie for the same pie of unexplored energy basesin Central Asia, Africa or as recently as Bay of Bengal and SouthChina Sea. Such rivalries could eventually give shape to energy relatedconflicts in the future.•A way out of this imminent quagmire is to either discover someinexhaustible source of energy which can address the insatiableappetite of energy ( of China and India) or make optimal use of similara major energy source available, i.e. nuclear energy.
• What are India’s alternate energy resources?* While there are the options in renewable energy like Wind,Solar or even Hydropower, they are not without limitations.* There are no estimates of land required to set up solar panels tolight up a city like Delhi or Mumbai for 365 days a year? Then,multiply that demand for thousands of India’s cities and townsand six hundred thousand villages.* Moreover, can India afford the same with its perennial monsoonperiods? Given the opposition in India to land acquisition, therewould be a limitation on land for solar panels or wind turbines.
What about alternate conventional resources?• Today an estimated 65% of India’s power is made from coal. But the average coalstocks reached below the critical level for most power plants and a few even faced ashut down proved a point that even a country like India with such huge supply of coalcan face an energy crisis due to extraneous factors like monsoon or floods or regionalagitations .•Indian coal deposits have an estimated 40% ash content which means that if acountry like India were take care of its future energy demands when its GDP shootsup along with a population rise of another 300 million, it needs other options.•The future of Indian civilian nuclear industry is particularly bright because it has thepotential to mitigate much of the energy demand of India without leading to anyconflict over resources with China. Likewise it is also the only source of literallyinfinite amount of energy whose production would not damage the environment theway fly ash from a coal based power plant does or emissions from the use of fossilfuel does
INDIA’S CURRENT NUCLEAR ENERGY STATUSIndia presently has 20 nuclear power reactors which are producing4780 MW of electricity while construction of another 7 reactors withcapacity to produce 5300 MW of electricity are at various stages ofconstructions or nearing completion. This apart work on the of the proposed 9900 MW Jaitapur Power Plant being set up by Areva hasn’t yet started.
INDIA’s THREE STAGE NUCLEAR ENERGY PLAN• In STAGE 1: India plans to scale up to around 320 GWe (32000 MW) per yearusing Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors with natural Uranium ( by around 2020).• In STAGE 2: India plans to use depleted Uranium from Stage 1 along with Plutoniumfor Plutonium based fast breeder reactors to produce an estimated 42000 GWe peryear (42,000,000 MW or 42 million MW from 2030 onwards).• In STAGE 3: India Plans to use the thorium (that(would be the spent fuel from STAGE 2) for India’sThorium based reactors which has the potential togenerate up to 15,5000 GWe (155 million MW) ofelectricity per year and is a self sustaining program.The entire nuclear deal for India was based on theassumption of the infinite potential of powergeneration that STAGE 3 promises ( by around 2050)
Nuclear Reactors require huge insurance back-ups for various associated liabilities.Additionally, In America even now nuclear energy production is subsidized and thereforenuclear power entities are still not viable on their own.•Disposal of spent fuel is often expensive and if not done to the specifications of internationalsafety norms can have huge environmental ramifications.• Nuclear facilities remain perennial potential targets for terror attack thereby requiringconsiderable amount of money to be spent on their asset protection. In other words, nuclearfacilities are more vulnerable than other kinds of energy assets.•Even India’s Three Stage NuclearProgram is yet to be tested in termsof its real time practical feasibilityand thus complete dependence onit might prove to be counter productive.
NUCLEAR ENERGY WILL BE EXPENSIVECurrently nuclear power in India is far costlier than power fromfossil fuel and other alternate series like wind and solar. But N-energy could offer vast benefits to consumers in India.