Nuclear Power in India - Nuclear Power Growth in India

Nuclear Power Growth in India

India now envisages to increase the contribution of nuclear power to overall electricity generation capacity from 2.8% to 9% within 25 years. By 2020, India's installed nuclear power generation capacity will increase to 20,000 MW ( 2.0×1010 Watts, which is 20 GW). As of 2009, India stands 9th in the world in terms of number of operational nuclear power reactors. Indigenous atomic reactors include TAPS-3, and -4, both of which are 540 MW reactors. India's US$717 million fast breeder reactor project is expected to be operational by 2012-13.

The Indian nuclear power industry is expected to undergo a significant expansion in the coming years thanks in part to the passing of the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement. This agreement will allow India to carry out trade of nuclear fuel and technologies with other countries and significantly enhance its power generation capacity. When the agreement goes through, India is expected to generate an additional 25,000 MW of nuclear power by 2020, bringing total estimated nuclear power generation to 45,000 MW.

India has already been using imported enriched uranium for light-water reactors that are currently under IAEA safeguards, but it has developed other aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle to support its reactors. Development of select technologies has been strongly affected by limited imports. Use of heavy water reactors has been particularly attractive for the nation because it allows Uranium to be burnt with little to no enrichment capabilities. India has also done a great amount of work in the development of a thorium centred fuel cycle. While Uranium deposits in the nation are limited (see next paragraph) there are much greater reserves of thorium and it could provide hundreds of times the energy with the same mass of fuel. The fact that thorium can theoretically be utilized in heavy water reactors has tied the development of the two. A prototype reactor that would burn Uranium-Plutonium fuel while irradiating a thorium blanket is under construction at the Madras/Kalpakkam Atomic Power Station.

Uranium used for the weapons programme has been separated from the power programme, using uranium from indigenous reserves. This domestic reserve of 80,000 to 112,000 tons of uranium (approx 1% of global uranium reserves) is large enough to supply all of India's commercial and military reactors as well as supply all the needs of India's nuclear weapons arsenal. Currently, India's nuclear power reactors consume, at most, 478 tonnes of uranium per year. Even if India were quadruple its nuclear power output (and reactor base) to 20 GW by 2020, nuclear power generation would only consume 2000 tonnes of uranium per annum. Based on India's known commercially viable reserves of 80,000 to 112,000 tons of uranium, this represents a 40–50 years uranium supply for India's nuclear power reactors (note with reprocessing and breeder reactor technology, this supply could be stretched out many times over). Furthermore, the uranium requirements of India's Nuclear Arsenal are only a fifteenth (1/15) of that required for power generation (approx. 32 tonnes), meaning that India's domestic fissile material supply is more than enough to meet all needs for it strategic nuclear arsenal. Therefore, India has sufficient uranium resources to meet its strategic and power requirements for the foreseeable future.

Indian President A.P.J.Abdul Kalam, stated while he was in office, that "energy independence is India's first and highest priority. India has to go for nuclear power generation in a big way using thorium-based reactors. Thorium, a non fissile material is available in abundance in our country." India has vast thorium reserves and quite limited uranium reserves.

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