India is waking up from nuclear energy dream

The report that the US will help build six nuclear power plants in India need to be taken with the proverbial pinch of salt. When it comes to the United States, inter-governmental declarations are not how service gets done. It requires working through a maze of terms and conditions with business and financial organizations. And, the nuclear-reactor company is not too healthy in the US.

The 6 reactors to be set up in Kovvada, Andhra Pradesh are Westinghouse-designed AP1000 Pressurised Water Reactors (PWR). Westinghouse has simply emerged from a Chapter 11 insolvency settlement on account of the building and construction of four AP1000 reactors in Georgia and South Carolina.

The statement, which came throughout foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale’s check out to the US, seems intended at pleasing Washington at a time when bilateral trade ties appear to have hit turbulence. It is likewise a token genuflection towards the Indo-US nuclear deal of 2008 that was justified by the US desire to promote civil nuclear cooperation. This offer, with its commitment to promote US nuclear reactor sales to India, came unstuck after India passed a rigid liability law that made the producers, rather than the operator, mainly accountable for damage in the occasion of an mishap.

India  is  waking  up  from  nuclear  energy  dream

Representational image. AP

India has 22 working reactors, most of them pressurised heavy water reactors (PWHRs), which supply 3 per cent of the country’s electricity. Seven units, one of them a model quick breeder reactor, are under building and construction.

India’s nuclear power sector was coddled by the federal government since it served the double function of supplying the capability to produce nuclear weapons and also the pledge of limitless sources of energy. This was predicated on Homi Bhabha’s three-stage plan that involves making fast breeder reactors (FBR) to usage plutonium recycled from the spent fuel from the first stage PWHR plants.

Stage 2 FBRs will usage a mixed oxide fuel to produce more plutonium than they take in.

In Stage 3, thorium would be utilized to blanket the reactor to yield Uranium 233 for the third-stage reactor, which can be refuelled by plentiful natural thorium after its preliminary fuel charge.

Nuclear energy received the bulk of the government’s research study and advancement (R&D) financing throughout the 1950 -1970 duration. It got some 15 per cent in the 1990 s, at a time when Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) got 20 per cent and renewables got less than one per cent. While Isro achieved world-class launch and satellite ability, in spite of embargoes, the department of atomic energy found it hard to even scale up the 220 MWe Canadian reactor it had got in the 1960 s to 700 MWe. We have just about handled to get one going in Andhra Pradesh’s Kakrapar in 2018. The world standard for power reactors is 1,000-1,500 MWe.

The country was guaranteed a 10,000 MWe capacity by the Year 2000, but even now it has just touched 7,000 MWe. After the nuclear deal there was talk of increasing nuclear energy to 63,000 MWe by 2032. However in 2011, following the blow-back from the nuclear liability legislation, this was scaled down to 14,600 MWe by 2020 and 27,500 by 2032. We will be lucky if we fulfill the 2000 target in 2020.

In contrast to nuclear power, India has generally exceeded its targets, at far lesser financial investment, in the area of renewable energy. The nation’s installed wind-power capability is 34,000MW, hydropower 44,000 MW and solar power 25,000 MW, with a target of 100,000MW by 2022. Wind and solar power have not been offered the kind of financial investment that has been made in nuclear energy.

Around the world, nuclear energy has actually taken a back seat due to the fact that of the risks that reactors bring with them. Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima have moistened the ardour of the established world. The United States, which has over 100,000 MWe capacity, stopped issuing licences for nuclear plants between 1979 and 2012. Even now, just 2 are under construction, while 34 have actually been shut down.

It is not security alone that is a concern. The economics of nuclear power is another issue. Big amounts of money go into setting up of power plants. Most face hold-ups and cost over-runs. Operating costs per system of electrical power tends to be higher than alternative energy sources.

There are a variety of speculative reactors that promise higher security and economy however they are yet to reach maturity. China is investing big in new reactor technologies. The stakes are substantial. Nuclear technology has always had two deals with—the pledge of extraordinary bounty and its tremendously devastating capability.

As of now, India stays fixated on its three-stage strategy. We will reach Phase 3 only by 2050 or so; we’re still primarily in Phase 1. Care is needed, particularly given that the record of our nuclear R&D and industry is not fantastic. We need to hedge our dangers by working on alternatives, not just in the field of nuclear energy, but also renewables, where our performance has been much better.

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