Nuclear power from 20 reactors accounts for less
than 3% of the electricity that India generates: Of the installed capacity of
1.8 lakh MW, just 4,780 MW is nuclear energy, even though facilities to generate
6,700 MW more are under construction. Thermal power dominates India’s energy
Nuclear power, in particular, costs about Rs 12 crore to Rs 14 crore per MW,
compared with Rs 4 crore per MW for thermal power. But the energy generated by
the fission of uranium, the fuel, is about two million times more than that
obtained by burning coal of equal weight.
Accordingly, policy makers want to boost India’s nuclear power capacity to
63,000 MW by 2032. But the nuclear accident at Fukushima in Japan in March
changed many nations’ attitudes towards nuclear power. In India too, the public
mood also changed.
Yet domestic policy makers must continue to pursue nuclear power, even while
drawing lessons from Fukushima and ensuring that they do not compromise an iota
on the safety front, say international experts
“India should go ahead and implement its civil nuclear power plans,” Richard
Jones, the deputy executive director of the International Energy Agency, told
the HT in Singapore at the International Energy Summit in the first week of
Germany, Italy and others that announced changes in their nuclear policies
did not have big nuclear plans in the first place, while China is going ahead
with its programme, he said.
If India pursues its nuclear programme, it will create a cushion against high
oil and gas prices, which are denting economies worldwide, said Nabuo Tanaka, a
former executive director at the Agency.
All nuclear countries must draw lessons from Fukushima, the experts said,
just as India did after the Three Mile Island incident in the US in 1979 and the
Chernobyl accident in Ukraine in 1986.
India has limited reserves of uranium but after the Nuclear Suppliers Group
(NSG) allowed its 46 member-nations to trade with us, we have signed several
deals, including for the supply of uranium by Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan,
Argentina and Namibia.
After the NSG allowed its members to trade with India, we signed letters of
intent to buy American nuclear reactors generating 10,000 MW. But this hasn’t
progressed because of concerns of legal liability. Also because safety, security
and cost concerns about importing foreign nuclear reactors have emerged, the
state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd, which has funds, is also
tying up with state-run and private firms to set up plants based on indigenous