Nuclear Power in India


World Nuclear Association – TRANSCEND Media Service

(Updated 10 April 2013)

  •  India has a flourishing and largely indigenous nuclear power program and expects to have 14,600 MWe nuclear capacity on line by 2020.  It aims to supply 25% of electricity from nuclear power by 2050.
  •  Because India is outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty due to its weapons program, it was for 34 years largely excluded from trade in nuclear plant or materials, which has hampered its development of civil nuclear energy until 2009.
  •  Due to these trade bans and lack of indigenous uranium, India has uniquely been developing a nuclear fuel cycle to exploit its reserves of thorium.
  •  Now, foreign technology and fuel are expected to boost India’s nuclear power plans considerably.  All plants will have high indigenous engineering content.
  •  India has a vision of becoming a world leader in nuclear technology due to its expertise in fast reactors and thorium fuel cycle.

India’s primary energy consumption more than doubled between 1990 and 2011 to nearly 25,000 PJ. India’s dependence on imported energy resources and the inconsistent reform of the energy sector are challenges to satisfying rising demand.

Electricity demand in India is increasing rapidly, and the 960 billion kilowatt hours gross produced in 2010 was more than triple the 1990 output, though still represented only some 750 kWh per capita for the year. With huge transmission losses – 211 TWh in 2010, this resulted in only about 693 billion kWh consumption. Coal provides 68% of the electricity at present, but reserves are limited. Gas provides 12%, hydro 12%. The per capita electricity consumption figure is expected to double by 2020, with 6.3% annual growth, and reach 5000-6000 kWh by 2050, requiring about 8000 TWh/yr then.  There is an acute demand for more and more reliable power supplies. One third of the population is not connected to any grid.

At mid 2012, 203 GWe was on line with 20.5 GWe having been added in 12 months. In September 2012 it had 211 GWe. The government’s 12th 5-year plan for 2012-17 is targeting the addition of 94 GWe over the period, costing $247 billion. Three quarters of this would be coal- or lignite-fired, and only 3.4 GWe nuclear, including two imported 1000 MWe units planned at one site and two indigenous 700 MWe units at another.  By 2032 total installed capacity of 700 GWe is planned to meet 7-9% GDP growth, and this was to include 63 GWe nuclear.  The OECD’s International Energy Agency predicts that India will need some $1600 billion investment in power generation, transmission and distribution to 2035.

India has five electricity grids — Northern, Eastern, North-Eastern, Southern and Western. All of them are interconnected to some extent, except the Southern grid. All are run by the state-owned Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCI), which operates more than 95,000 circuit km of transmission lines. In July 2012 the Northern grid failed with 35,669 MWe load in the early morning, and the following day it plus parts of two other grids failed again so that over 600 million people in 22 states were without power for up to a day.

A KPMG report in 2007 said that India needed to spend US$ 120-150 billion on power infrastructure over the next five years, including transmission and distribution (T&D). It said that T&D losses were some 30-40%, worth more than $6 billion per year. A 2012 report costs the losses as $12.6 billion per year. A 2012 report costs the losses as $12.6 billion per year. A 2010 estimate shows big differences among states, with some very high, and a national average of 27% T&D loss, well above the target 15% set in 2001 when the average figure was 34%.  Installed transmission capacity is only about 13% of generation capacity.

Nuclear power supplied 20 billion  kWh (3.7%) of India’s electricity in 2011 from 4.4 GWe (of 180 GWe total) capacity and after a dip in 2008-09 this is increasing as imported uranium becomes available and new plants come on line.  Some 350 reactor-years of operation had been achieved by the end of 2011. India’s fuel situation, with shortage of fossil fuels, is driving the nuclear investment for electricity, and 25% nuclear contribution is the ambition for 2050, when 1094 GWe of base-load capacity is expected to be required. Almost as much investment in the grid system as in power plants is necessary.

The target since about 2004 has been for nuclear power to provide 20 GWe by 2020, but in 2007 the Prime Minister referred to this as “modest” and capable of being “doubled with the opening up of international cooperation.” However, it is evident that even the 20 GWe target would require substantial uranium imports. In June 2009 NPCIL said it aimed for 60 GWe nuclear by 2032, including 40 GWe of PWR capacity and 7 GWe of new PHWR capacity, all fuelled by imported uranium.  This 2032 target was reiterated late in 2010 and increased to 63 GWe in 2011.  But in December 2011 parliament was told that more realistic targets were 14,600 MWe by 2020-21 and 27,500 MWe by 2032, relative to present 4780 MWe and 10,080 MWe when reactors under construction were on line in 2017.*

* “the XII Plan proposals are being finalized which envisage start of work on eight indigenous 700 MW Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs), two 500 MW Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs), one 300 MW Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) and eight Light Water Reactors of 1000 MW or higher capacity with foreign technical cooperation. These nuclear power reactors are expected to be completed progressively in the XIII and XIV Plans.”

The 16 PHWRS and LWRsa are expected to cost $40 billion. The eight 700 MWe PHWRs would be built at Kaiga in Karnataka, Gorakhpur in Haryana’s Fatehabad District, Banswada in Rajasthan, and Chutka
in Madhya Pradesh.

After liability legislation started to deter foreign reactor vendors, early in 2102 the government said it wanted to see coal production increase by 150 Mt/yr (from 440 Mt/yr) to support 60 GWe new coal-fired capacity to be built by 2015. This would involve Rs 56 billion new investment in rail infrastructure.

Longer term, the Atomic Energy Commission however envisages some 500 GWe nuclear on line by 2060, and has since speculated that the amount might be higher still: 600-700 GWe by 2050, providing half of all electricity.  Another projection is for nuclear share to rise to 9% by 2037.

Other energy information for India:

Indian nuclear power industry development

Nuclear power for civil use is well established in India. Its civil nuclear strategy has been directed towards complete independence in the nuclear fuel cycle, necessary because it is excluded from the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) due to it acquiring nuclear weapons capability after 1970. (Those five countries doing so before 1970 were accorded the status of Nuclear Weapons States under the NPT.)

As a result, India’s nuclear power program has proceeded largely without fuel or technological assistance from other countries (but see later section). Its power reactors to the mid 1990s had some of the world’s lowest capacity factors, reflecting the technical difficulties of the country’s isolation, but rose impressively from 60% in 1995 to 85% in 2001-02.  Then in 2008-10 the load factors dropped due to shortage of uranium fuel.

India’s nuclear energy self-sufficiency extended from uranium exploration and mining through fuel fabrication, heavy water production, reactor design and construction, to reprocessing and waste management. It has a small fast breeder reactor and is building a much larger one. It is also developing technology to utilise its abundant resources of thorium as a nuclear fuel.

The Atomic Energy Establishment was set up at Trombay, near Mumbai, in 1957 and renamed as Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) ten years later. Plans for building the first Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) were finalised in 1964, and this prototype – Rajasthan-1, which had Canada’s Douglas Point reactor as a reference unit, was built as a collaborative venture between Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) and NPCIL. It started up in 1972 and was duplicated Subsequent indigenous PHWR development has been based on these units, though several stages of evolution can be identified: PHWRs with dousing and single containment at Rajasthan 1-2, PHWRs with suppression pool and partial double containment at Madras, and later standardized PHWRs from Narora onwards having double containment, suppression pool, and calandria filled with heavy water, housed in a water-filled calandria vault.



This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 22 Apr 2013.

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