How the Narendra Modi govt is systematically paving the way for a nuclear-powered India

The generation of nuclear power in India got a big boost on Wednesday with the Union Cabinet’s decision to construct 10 indigenous pressurised heavy water nuclear reactors, with a total capacity of 7,000-megawatt electric (MWe).

Of course, most of the sites for these reactors had already been chosen way back in 2012 and preliminary work had already commenced – Gorakhpur near Fatehabad district in Haryana, Banswada in Rajasthan, Chutka in Mandla district and at Bheempur in Madhya Pradesh. The latest decision has now added Kaiga in Karnataka to the list.

Wednesday’s decision underscores the Narendra Modi government’s commitment towards promoting nonconventional (non-fossil) energy resources such as nuclear, solar and wind power.

Representational image. AP

At present, India generates 37,674 million units of energy from its existing nuclear plants (in 2016-17), but this figure only reflects about 80 percent of the country’s capacity factor. India’s target is to have 14.5 gigawatt electrical (GWe) nuclear capacity on line by 2020 as part of its national energy policy, which aims at supplying 25 percent of the total electricity requirement from nuclear power by 2050.

According to a World Nuclear Association (WNA) study, as of today, nuclear power provides over 11 percent of the world’s electricity as continuous, reliable base-load power, without carbon dioxide emissions. As of April 2017, 30 countries worldwide are operating 449 nuclear reactors for electricity generation and 60 new nuclear plants are under construction in 15 countries.

And there are 55 countries that operate a total of about 245 research reactors and a further 180 nuclear reactors power some 140 ships and submarines. Sixteen countries depend on nuclear power for at least a quarter of their electricity. France gets around three-quarters of its power from nuclear energy, while Belgium, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovenia and Ukraine get one-third or more.

South Korea, Bulgaria and Finland normally get more than 30 percent of their power from nuclear energy, while in the USA, UK, Spain and Russia get almost one-fifth of their power from nuclear. Japan is used to relying on nuclear power for more than one-quarter of its electricity and is expected to return to that level. Though in some developed countries, there have been demands to revisit the nuclear energy in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 in Japan.

Over 50 countries, both developed and developing, are actively considering embarking upon nuclear power programmes. The Chinese government plans to increase nuclear-generating capacity to 58 GWe with 30 GWe more to be added by 2020. China has completed construction and commenced operation of 17 new nuclear power reactors in between 2003 and 2013 and many have been planned since then. In fact, China is now commencing export marketing of a largely indigenous reactor design – R&D on nuclear reactor technology in China is second to…

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