Daily News Analysis

Nuclear Power  

29th November, 2021 Economy

Context:

  • there is some progress in the Jaitapur nuclear power project in Maharashtra with the French company EDF and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL).

About the project:

  • Jaitapur would be the world’s most powerful nuclear power plant.
  • There would be six state-of-the-art EPR reactors with an installed capacity of 9.6 GWe that will produce low carbon electricity.
  • It would provide electricity to seven crore households.

 

India’s Nuclear Share

  • The share of nuclear power in the total electricity generation in the country is about 1 per cent in 2020-21 – Ministry of Science and Technology.

 

Nuclear Power in India

  • Genesis: India's nuclear programme can trace its origins to 1944 and its efforts in 3 stage technology were established by Homi Jehangir Bhabha when he founded the nuclear research centre, the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.
  • Today, India has 23 nuclear reactors in operation in 7 nuclear power plants, with a total installed capacity of 7,480 MW.
  • Nuclear power produced a total of 43 TWh in 2020-21, contributing 3.11% of total power generation in India (1,382 TWh).
  • Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant is the largest nuclear power station in India, situated in Tamil Nadu.

Benefits of Nuclear Energy:

  • Thorium and Uranium reserves: India has vast reserves of Thorium that can fuel India’s nuclear energy provided appropriate technology. India’s thorium deposits, estimated at 360,000 tonnes, and natural uranium deposits at 70,000 tonnes. The country’s thorium reserves make up 25% of the global reserves.
  • Energy poverty: Although India is the 3rd largest producer of electricity, about 20 % of the population of the country does not have access to electricity today. The per capita consumption of electricity is very low at about 1,181 kWh per annum, about half of the world average and way below that of advanced countries. There exist shortages in energy and peak power in the range 10-15%.
  • Energy demand: Nuclear energy is a critical part for India’s future energy security. As we know India’s annual energy demand is expected to rise to 800 GW by 2032, it is very important to consider every source of energy in the optimum energy mix.
  • Energy efficiency: Quantities of nuclear fuel needed are considerably less than thermal power plants. For instance, 10000 MW generation by coal will need 30-35 million tons of coal, but nuclear fuel needed will be only 300-350 tons.
  • Economic growth: Rapid economic growth is also critical to achieve developmental objectives and poverty alleviation. A sustained economic growth of about 8 to 10% is needed over the next few decades. As electricity is a key driver for economic growth, it is necessary that there is a massive augmentation in electricity capacity, apart from transmissions and distribution systems.
  • Decrease in Energy Supply: Energy supply has been negatively affected by changing weather patterns. As water reservoirs decreases due to lower precipitation and increased evaporation, capacity for electricity production from hydropower and other water-intensive generation technologies may decline.
  • Climate change: Due to its emission-free nature, nuclear energy can contribute to global efforts under the Paris Agreement. India’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has outlined goals to reduce the carbon emissions intensity of its economy by 33-35% by 2030 as well as increase the clean energy electricity capacity to 40% of the total installed capacity in the same period.

Challenges:

  • Public Awareness: Commercial nuclear power is sometimes viewed by the general public as a dangerous or unstable process. This perception is often based on three global nuclear accidents, its false association with nuclear weapons,
  • Used Fuel Transportation, Storage and Disposal: Many people view used fuel as a growing problem and are apprehensive about its transportation, storage, and disposal.
  • Constructing New Power Plants: Building a nuclear power plant can be discouraging for stakeholders. Conventional reactor designs are considered multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects. High capital costs, licensing and regulation approvals, coupled with long lead times and construction delays, have also deterred public interest.
  • High Operating Costs: Challenging market conditions have left the nuclear industry struggling to compete. Strict regulations on maintenance, staffing levels, operator training, and plant inspections have become a financial burden for the industry.

 

Worldwide Nuclear Production:

  • Approximately 10% of the world’s electricity is produced using nuclear energy.
  • Worldwide, nuclear power plants are operational in around 30 countries.
  • In France, approximately 75% of the electricity is produced by Nuclear energy.
  • A total of around 450 nuclear reactors are operating worldwide for generating electricity.

Safety Provisions at Nuclear Plan:

  • Nuclear Power Plants in India are required to obtain clearances from Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB). 
  • Nuclear safety and security aspects are reviewed by AERB before giving clearance for various stages of the projects from siting onwards.
  • AERB has specified safety and security requirements in its Codes & Guides which are in line with international standards. 
  • AERB has rigorous process for reviewing Nuclear Safety and Nuclear Security aspects of nuclear power projects through multi-tier reviews, apart from periodic regulatory inspections, to ensure adherence to the requirements.
  • Various electronic surveillance and security measures have been taken at all nuclear power plant sites of NPCIL.
  • Nuclear power plants are designed adopting safety principles of redundancy, diversity and provide fail-safe design features following a defence-in-depth approach.
  • This ensures that there are multiple barriers between the source of radioactivity and the environment.
  • The operations are performed adopting well laid out procedures by highly qualified, trained and licensed personnel.
  • Appropriate Personal Protection Equipment and monitoring aids are provided to all the personnel working in the nuclear power plants.

 

Government Plans for Nuclear Plants:

  • There are presently 22 reactors with a total capacity of 6780 MW in operation and one reactor, KAPP-3 (700 MW) has been connected to the grid on January 10, 2021.
  • In addition, there are 10 reactors (including 500 MW PFBR being implemented by BHAVINI) totalling to 8000 MW under construction at various stages.
  • The Government has accorded administrative approval and financial sanction for construction of 10 indigenous 700 MW Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) to be set up in fleet mode.
  • On progressive completion of the projects under construction and accorded sanction, the nuclear capacity is expected to reach 22480 MW by 2031.