What is Nuclear Energy?
Nuclear energy is a unique source of producing electricity which is generated by releasing the energy from the nucleus of the chemical elements like Uranium, Thorium etc. The energy stays within the nucleus of these elements which is considered as the core of an atom. Though atoms are the tiny units but are the fundamental piece of every matter. A huge amount of energy is stored in the atom’s nucleus. Every solid, liquid, gas and plasma are composed of ionised atoms.
Why there is requirement of Nuclear Energy in India?
- The Indian infrastructure has developed over the years leading to a growth in the electricity generation too. Between FY2010 to FY2019, the electricity generation in India has increased at a CAGR of 5.68% (Exhibit -1).
- However, the requirement of electricity in India is also getting higher day by day because the generated energy is not found enough to satisfy the electricity needs of the mass. Between 2010 to 2018, the requirement of energy has increased in the country at a CAGR of 4.84%. Though, over the years the problem of power deficit has reduced at a CAGR of 24%, still the requirement of power is ever rising.
- Steadily growing GDP, expanding urbanisation, plans to provide electricity to the rural parts of country at cheaper rate or of free of cost, improved standard of living, rising flow of FDI leading to increasing industrial activities, technologically advanced approach in the professional and personal life, emergence of the use of electric vehicles in the transport system, various initiatives towards sustainable development have triggered the demand of electricity in regular life. In India, all the industrial demand for electricity are met by coal, natural gas or relevant fuels responsible for emitting huge portion of carbon in the air. India is recognised as the largest growth market for coal and the share of its global coal consumption is expected to be double by 2040.
- These all factors causes increasing amount of carbon emission in the environment. More than 35% of Greenhouse Gas emissions are caused by the electricity and heat generation. India has a major share in the global carbon dioxide emission. Between 2007 -2018, carbon-dioxide emission from India has increased at a CAGR of 5.43% (Exhibit 2). The share of carbon-dioxide emission of India in Asia Pacific was 14.26% and in the world was 7.16% in 2018.
- These all things have created a situation, when India needs to switch to use the clean energy. Hence, here comes the requirement of Nuclear energy. Just like the renewable energies, Nuclear energy is also regarded as clean source of energy because they do not burn fuel and do not emit greenhouse gases like carbon – dioxide. In the process of fission, uranium atoms split and create heat. As a result, unlike other energy sources, nuclear power plants do not release carbon or pollutants like nitrogen and sulphur oxides into the air.
What is the status of India for Nuclear energy?
- For the purpose of electricity generation, India is dependent on several sources of energy. Till now, the primary source of energy has been the thermal power which comprises of (Coal, Oil, Natural Gas, Lignite, Diesel etc.). Apart from this the other sources like Wind, Water (Hydro), Solar, Biomass, Nuclear energy have also been used for electricity generation but not as widely as the thermal sources.
- Nuclear power in India is the fourth-largest source of electricity after thermal, hydroelectric, and renewable sources (of electricity).
- The Indian government is committed to growing its nuclear power capacity as part of its massive infrastructure development programme.
- Till February 2019, the status of installed capacity of different sources of electricity production in India is as follows:
- India is outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty due to its weapons programme, hence for 34 years it was largely excluded from trade in nuclear plant and materials, which hampered its development of civil nuclear energy until 2009.
- India has 22 nuclear reactors operating in 8 nuclear power plants (Exhibit 4).
- The total installed capacity of nuclear power in India is 6780 MW.
- 7 reactors are under construction (Exhibit 4), which are expected to produce an additional 4,300 MW electricity.
India’s dependence on the foreign countries for nuclear energy generation
United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China are regarded as the powerful nations for Nuclear Energy. Based on its current installed capacity and active future plans and initiatives, India is also regarded as one of the leading countries for nuclear energy generation.
The current status of India’s nuclear power generation has already been discussed in previous sections, where we can see that India has created a large numbers of nuclear power reactors which are currently operational. Manufacturing of many of the reactors are still under process and after that the installed capacity of the nuclear power generation will increase. Due to this domestic production, the dependence of India on other countries has not only decreased, but the range of exports of Nuclear reactors and related items to other countries has increased over the years.
Between 2007 to 2018, the Import value of Nuclear reactors and items related to the nuclear energy generation has decreased at a CAGR of 28.31%, whereas, the export value of the same has increased at a CAGR of 8.89% between the same period. Besides, the export value of radioactive elements/ radioactive isotopes has also increased at a CAGR of 68% between 2007 to 2018, whereas, no significant range of imports has taken place for the same products in the last few years.
However, an overall technically advanced infrastructure is required for the flawless generation of nuclear energy in India. Still after having a large number of nuclear reactors, India depends widely on the countries like Japan, China, France, Russia for achieving strong technical support. Till now, India has made more than 10 nuclear deals with US, Russia, Japan, Canada, Australia, France, Japan, United Kingdom, South Korea and many more.
How these nuclear deals can help India?
Though the terms and conditions of such deals vary across the agreements, still some of the facilities India can achieve are as follows:
- These types of deals with powerful nations like Japan, US and many other will increase the supply of nuclear power plant technology as well as finance for nuclear power plants in India.
- These nations would also assist India in nuclear waste management
- They could undertake joint manufacture of nuclear power plant components under the “Make in India” initiative.
- Supply of technologies from Japan, US for setting up reactors in Andhra Pradesh
- Uranium shipment from Australia
- Support from Russia for the Units 5 & 6 for Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant
- Involvement of Japan Steel Works for the all-important reactor pressure vessel in Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project
- Involvement of global companies like Westinghouse, GE Hitachi and Areva in India’s nuclear energy business.
Effects of dependence on foreign imports:
- Too much reliance on other countries will make the financial cost of the projects considerably high leading to a huge trade deficit.
- Dependence on Western reactors would have made India the world’s largest importer of nuclear power plants but it will increase the burden on Indian taxpayers.
India may still buy some Western reactors, but the latest decision clearly signals that its focus will be on building its own reactors. By emphasising its reactor models, India is laying the base for its potential emergence as a reactor exporter.
India has also plenty of local manufacturers for supplying heavy engineering products in the nuclear energy sector but currently maybe they are not that promising due to lack of technically developed. However, in the era of globalization, it can surely be expected that they would absorb the required mechanism and would be potential players in the national global nuclear energy market soon. Till then, India might have to depend heavily on foreign countries or it needs to work hard and faster to improve its domestic nuclear energy market.
- For maintaining the pace of development in the nuclear energy sector, it is essential to structure a constant and reliable supply chain of nuclear materials.
- Import of expensive and untested reactors (both EPRs and AP 1000s have not yet been the part of commercial operation anywhere around the world yet) increases both the overall import value and risk of handling the reactors.
- Use of indigenous PHWRs, natural uranium, thorium and other required elements can definitely reduce the expenditure. If India can handle the operation of its 700-MW PHWR technology, then it can rapidly scale up construction of these reactors across the whole country uninfluenced by complex bilateral agreements, global diplomacy, foreign imports and huge burden of costs.
- Investment on the domestic reactors and successful demonstration of those will ensure India becoming an established international player in nuclear power technology. India will get the chance to build PHWRs in other countries across the globe leading to an impressive generation of revenue.
- Besides, If India becomes capable to create a well-organized domestic market place for nuclear energy generation for both the domestic and foreign reactors, then it will easily become a key member in the global civil nuclear sector.