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India’s Nuclear Power Capacity

  • 10 Feb 2023
  • 7 min read

For Prelims: Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC), Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL), Kamini, Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

For Mains: Recent Developments Related to India’s Nuclear Energy, Ways to Enhance India’s Nuclear Power Capacity.

Why in News?

India’s nuclear power capacity experienced a significant increase. By 2021-22, it had risen to 47,112 Million Units.

  • In 2017, the government gave simultaneous approval for 11 indigenous pressurised heavy water reactors with a total capacity of 7,000 MegaWatts.

What is the Status of India’s Nuclear Energy?

  • About:
    • Nuclear energy is the fifth-largest source of electricity for India which contributes about 3% of the total electricity generation in the country.
    • India has over 22 nuclear reactors in 7 power plants across the country which produces 6780 MW of nuclear power. In addition, one reactor, Kakrapar Atomic Power Project (KAPP-3) has also been connected to the grid in January- 2021.
      • 18 reactors are Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) and 4 are Light Water Reactors (LWRs).
      • KAPP-3 is the India’s first 700 MWe unit, and the biggest indigenously developed variant of the PHWR.
  • Recent Developments:
    • Joint Ventures with Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs):
    • Expansion of Nuclear Installations:
      • In the past, India's nuclear installations were mostly located in South India or in Maharashtra and Gujarat in the west.
        • However, the government is now promoting its expansion to other parts of the country. As an example, the upcoming nuclear power plant in Gorakhpur town of Haryana, which will become operational in the near future.
    • India’s Indigenous Move:
      • The world's first thorium-based nuclear plant, "Bhavni," using Uranium-233, is being set up at Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu.
      • This plant will be entirely indigenous and will be the first of its kind. The experimental thorium plant "Kamini" already exists in Kalpakkam.
  • Challenges:
    • Limited Domestic Resources: India has limited domestic resources of uranium, which is the fuel for nuclear reactors.
      • This has forced the country to import a significant portion of its uranium requirements, making the country's nuclear energy program vulnerable to global market conditions and political tensions.
    • Public Opposition: The construction of nuclear power plants often faces opposition from local communities due to concerns over the safety of the reactors and the potential impact on the environment.
    • Technical Challenges: The development of nuclear power plants involves complex technical challenges, including the design and construction of reactors, the management of nuclear waste, and the maintenance of nuclear safety standards.
    • International Sanctions: India is not a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has faced international sanctions in the past for its nuclear weapons program.
      • This has limited its access to advanced nuclear technology and fuel supplies from other countries.
    • Regulatory Barriers: The regulatory framework for the development of nuclear power in India is complex and has been criticised for being slow and bureaucratic, leading to delays in the implementation of projects.

How India Can Enhance its Nuclear Power Capacity?

  • Overcoming Public Opposition: Addressing public concerns and increasing public awareness about the safety of nuclear power is critical to overcoming opposition to the construction of new reactors.
    • This can be achieved through transparent communication and consultation with local communities, as well as the implementation of rigorous safety standards.
  • Technical Innovation: To overcome the technical challenges faced by the nuclear energy sector, India needs to focus on innovation in reactor design, waste management, and safety systems.
    • This could involve investment in research and development and the deployment of advanced technologies.
  • Financial Sustainability: To overcome the financial challenges faced by the nuclear energy sector, India needs to find ways to make nuclear energy more cost-competitive with other forms of energy.
    • This could involve reducing construction and operation costs, as well as developing innovative financing models.
  • Improving International Collaboration: India needs to strengthen its international partnerships to overcome the limitations posed by international sanctions and access to advanced nuclear technology and fuel supplies.
    • This could involve the development of joint ventures with other countries, the participation in international research initiatives, and the negotiation of nuclear trade agreements.

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Questions (PYQs)

Prelims

Q. The function of heavy water in a nuclear reactor is to (2011)

(a) Slow down the speed of neutrons
(b) Increase the speed of neutrons
(c) Cool down the reactor
(d) Stop the nuclear reaction

Ans: (a)


Mains

Q. With growing energy needs should India keep on expanding its nuclear energy programme? Discuss the facts and fears associated with nuclear energy. (2018)

Source: PIB

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