Nuclear Power in India

ENERGY, 12 Jan 2015

World Nuclear Association – TRANSCEND Media Service

Updated 31 December 2014

  • 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 earlier trade bans and lack of indigenous uranium, India has uniquely been developing a nuclear fuel cycle to exploit its reserves of thorium.
  • Since 2010, a fundamental incompatibility between India’s civil liability law and international conventions limits foreign technology provision.
  • 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 1128 billion kilowatt hours (TWh) gross produced in 2012 was more than triple the 1990 output, though still represented only some 750 kWh per capita for the year. With large transmission losses – 193 TWh (17%) in 2012, this resulted in only about 869 billion kWh consumption. Gross generation comprised 801 TWh from coal, 94 TWh from gas, 23 TWh from oil, 33 TWh from nuclear, 126 TWh from hydro and 50 TWh from other renewables. Coal provides more than two-thirds of the electricity at present, but reserves are effectively limited* – in 2013, 159 million tonnes was imported, and 533 million tonnes produced domestically. 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.

* Quoted resources are 293 billion tonnes, but much of this is in forested areas of eastern India – Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, and West Bengal. While the first three of these are the main producing states, nevertheless permission to mine is problematical and infrastructure limited.

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 five-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 transmission and distribution (T&D) losses were worth more than $6 billion per year. A 2012 report costed 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 was only about 13% of generation capacity.

India’s priority is economic growth and to alleviate poverty. The importance of coal means that CO2 emission reduction is not a high priority, and the government has declined to set targets ahead of the 21st Conference of the Parties on Climate Change to be held in Paris in 2015. The environment minister in September 2014 said it would be 30 years before India would be likely to see a decrease in CO2 emissions.

Nuclear power

NPCIL supplied 35 TWh of India’s electricity in 2013-14 from 5.3 GWe nuclear capacity, with overall capacity factor of 83% and availability of 88%. Some 410 reactor-years of operation had been achieved to December 2014. 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 [2012-17] 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 LWRs 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.

In July 2014 the new Prime Minister urged DAE to triple the nuclear capacity to 17 GWe by 2024. He praised “India’s self-reliance in the nuclear fuel cycle and the commercial success of the indigenous reactors.” He also emphasized the importance of maintaining the commercial viability and competitiveness of nuclear energy compared with other clean energy sources.

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: US Energy Information Administration Analysis Brief on India

Indian nuclear power industry development

Nuclear power for civil use is well established in India. Since building the two small boiling water reactors at Tarapur in the 1960s, 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). The pressurised heavy-water reactor (PHWR) design was adopted in 1964, since it required less natural uranium than the BWRs, needed no enrichment, and could be built with the country’s engineering capacity at that time – pressure tubes rather than a heavy pressure vessel being involved. 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.

The Indian Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) is the main policy body.


The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) is responsible for design, construction, commissioning and operation of thermal nuclear power plants. At the start of 2010 it said it had enough cash on hand for 10,000 MWe of new plant. Its funding model is 70% equity and 30% debt financing. However, it is aiming to involve other public sector and private corporations in future nuclear power expansion, notably National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) – see subsection below. NTPC is very much larger than NPCIL and sees itself as the main power producer. NTPC is largely government-owned. The 1962 Atomic Energy Act prohibits private control of nuclear power generation, though it allows minority investment. As of late 2010 the government had no intention of changing this to allow greater private equity in nuclear plants.

India’s operating nuclear power reactors:

Reactor State Type MWe net, each Commercial operation Safeguards status*
Tarapur 1&2 Maharashtra GE BWR 150 1969 Item-specific, Oct 2009
Kaiga 1&2 Karnataka PHWR 202 1999, 2000 nil
Kaiga 3&4 Karnataka PHWR 202 2007, 2012 nil
Kakrapar 1&2 Gujarat PHWR 202 1993, 1995 December 2010 under new agreement
Madras 1&2 (MAPS) Tamil Nadu PHWR 202 1984, 1986 nil
Narora 1&2 Uttar Pradesh PHWR 202 1991, 1992 Due in 2014 under new agreement
Rajasthan 1&2 Rajasthan Candu PHWR 90, 187 1973, 1981 Item-specific, Oct 2009
Rajasthan 3&4 Rajasthan PHWR 202 1999, 2000 March 2010 under new agreement
Rajasthan 5&6 Rajasthan PHWR 202 Feb & April 2010 Oct 2009 under new agreement
Tarapur 3&4 Maharashtra PHWR 490 2006, 2005 nil
Kudankulam 1 Tamil Nadu PWR (VVER) 917 December 2014 Item-specific, Oct 2009
Total (21) 5302 MWe

Madras (MAPS) also known as Kalpakkam
Rajasthan/RAPS is located at Rawatbhata and sometimes called that
Kaiga = KGS, Kakrapar = KAPS, Narora = NAPS
* The safeguarded units to March 2014 are listed in the Annex to India’s Additional Protocol with IAEA. Tarapur 1&2 and Rajasthan 1&2 have INFCIRC/66 type, the others INFCIRC/754 type.

Nuclear reactors deployed in India

In December 2014 the 40% of nuclear capacity under safeguards was operating on imported uranium at rated capacity. The remainder, which relies on indigenous uranium, was operating below capacity, though the supply situation was said to be improving.

The two Tarapur150 MWe Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs) built by GE on a turnkey contract before the advent of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty were originally 200 MWe. They were down-rated due to recurrent problems but have run well since. They have been using imported enriched uranium (from France and China in 1980-90s and Russia since 2001) and are under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. However, late in 2004 Russia deferred to the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group and declined to supply further uranium for them. They underwent six months refurbishment over 2005-06, and in March 2006 Russia agreed to resume fuel supply. In December 2008 a $700 million contract with Rosatom was announced for continued uranium supply to them.

The two small Canadian (Candu) PHWRs at Rajasthan nuclear power plant started up in 1972 & 1980, and are also under safeguards. Rajasthan 1 was down-rated early in its life and has operated very little since 2002 due to ongoing problems and has been shut down since 2004 as the government considers its future. Rajasthan 2 was downrated in 1990. It had major refurbishment 2007-09 and has been running on imported uranium at full capacity.

The 220 MWe PHWRs (202 MWe net) were indigenously designed and constructed by NPCIL, based on a Canadian design. The only accident to an Indian nuclear plant was due to a turbine hall fire in 1993 at Narora, which resulted in a 17-hour total station blackout. There was no core damage or radiological impact and it was rated 3 on the INES scale – a ‘serious incident’.

The Madras (MAPS) reactors were refurbished in 2002-03 and 2004-05 and their capacity restored to 220 MWe gross (from 170). Much of the core of each reactor was replaced, and the lifespans extended to 2033/36.

Kakrapar unit 1 was fully refurbished and upgraded in 2009-10, after 16 years operation, as was Narora 2, with cooling channel (calandria tube) replacement.

Following the Fukushima accident in March 2011, four NPCIL taskforces evaluated the situation in India and in an interim report in July made recommendations for safety improvements of the Tarapur BWRs and each PHWR type. The report of a high-level committee appointed by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) was submitted at the end of August 2011, saying that the Tarapur and Madras plants needed some supplementary provisions to cope with major disasters. The two Tarapur BWRs have already been upgraded to ensure continuous cooling of the reactor during prolonged station blackouts and to provide nitrogen injection to containment structures, but further work is recommended. Madras needs enhanced flood defences in case of tsunamis higher than that in 2004. The prototype fast breeder reactor (PFR) under construction next door at Kalpakkam has defences which are already sufficiently high, following some flooding of the site in 2004.

The Tarapur 3&4 reactors of 540 MWe gross (490 MWe net) were developed indigenously from the 220 MWe (gross) model PHWR and were built by NPCIL. The first – Tarapur 4 – was connected to the grid in June 2005 and started commercial operation in September. Tarapur 4’s criticality came five years after pouring first concrete and seven months ahead of schedule. Its twin – unit 3 – was about a year behind it and was connected to the grid in June 2006 with commercial operation in August, five months ahead of schedule. Tarapur 3 & 4 cost about $1200/kW, and are competitive with imported coal.

Future indigenous PHWR reactors will be 700 MWe gross (640 MWe net). The first four are being built at Kakrapar and Rajasthan. They are due on line by 2017 after 60 months construction from first concrete to criticality. Cost is quoted at about Rs 12,000 crore (120 billion rupees) each, or $1700/kW. Up to 40% of the fuel they use will be slightly enriched uranium (SEU) – about 1.1% U-235, to achieve higher fuel burn-up – about 21,000 MWd/t instead of one third of this. Initially this fuel will be imported as SEU.

Kudankulam 1&2: Russia’s Atomstroyexport is supplying the country’s first large nuclear power plant, comprising two VVER-1000 (V-412) reactors, under a Russian-financed US$ 3 billion contract. A long-term credit facility covers about half the cost of the plant. The AES-92 units at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu state have been built by NPCIL and also commissioned and operated by NPCIL under IAEA safeguards. The turbines are made by Silmash in St Petersburg. Unlike other Atomstroyexport projects such as in Iran, there have been only about 80 Russian supervisory staff on the job. Construction started in March 2002.

Russia is supplying all the enriched fuel through the life of the plant, though India will reprocess it and keep the plutonium*. The first unit was due to start supplying power in March 2008 and go into commercial operation late in 2008, but this schedule slipped by six years. In the latter part of 2011 and into 2012 completion and fuel loading was delayed by public protests, but in March 2012 the state government approved the plant’s commissioning and said it would deal with any obstruction. Unit 1 started up in mid-July 2013, was connected to the grid in October 2013 and entered commercial operation at the end of December 2014. It had reached full power in mid-year but then required turbine repairs, though it generated 2.8 TWh in its first year. Unit 2 is expected to start up in April 2015. Each is 917 MWe net.

* The original agreement in 1988 specified return of used fuel to Russia, but a 1998 supplemental agreement allowed India to retain and reprocess it.

While the first core load of fuel was delivered early in 2008 there have been delays in supply of some equipment and documentation. Control system documentation was delivered late, and when reviewed by NPCIL it showed up the need for significant refining and even reworking some aspects. The design basis flood level is 5.44m, and the turbine hall floor is 8.1m above mean sea level. The 2004 tsunami was under 3m.

A small desalination plant is associated with the Kudankulam plant to produce 426 m3/hr for it using four-stage multi-vacuum compression (MVC) technology. Another reverse osmosis (RO) plant is in operation to supply local township needs.

Kaiga 3 started up in February, was connected to the grid in April and went into commercial operation in May 2007. Unit 4 started up in November 2010 and was grid-connected in January 2011, but is about 30 months behind original schedule due to shortage of uranium. The Kaiga units are not under UN safeguards, so cannot use imported uranium.

Rajasthan 5 started up in November 2009, using imported Russian fuel, and in December it was connected to the northern grid. RAPP 6 started up in January 2010 and was grid connected at the end of March. Both are now in commercial operation.


Under plans for the India-specific safeguards to be administered by the IAEA in relation to the civil-military separation plan, eight further reactors were to be safeguarded (beyond Tarapur 1&2, Rajasthan 1&2, and Kudankulam 1&2): Rajasthan 3&4 from 2010, Rajasthan 5&6 from 2008, Kakrapar 1&2 by 2012 and Narora 1&2 by 2014.

India’s nuclear power reactors under construction:

Reactor Type MWe gross, net,
Project control Construction start Commercial operation due Safeguards status
Kudankulam 2 PWR (VVER) 1000, 917 NPCIL July 2002 2015 item-specific, Oct 2009
Kalpakkam PFBR FBR 500, 470 Bhavini Oct 2004 2015
Kakrapar 3 PHWR 700, 630 NPCIL Nov 2010 June 2015
Kakrapar 4 PHWR 700, 630 NPCIL March 2011 Dec 2015
Rajasthan 7 PHWR 700, 630 NPCIL July 2011 June 2016
Rajasthan 8 PHWR 700, 630 NPCIL Sept 2011 Dec 2016
Total (6) 4300 MWe gross

Rajasthan/RAPS also known as Rawatbhata

npp_operating_and_under_construction_in_india nuclear energy power

In mid-2008 Indian nuclear power plants were running at about half of capacity due to a chronic shortage of fuel. Average load factor for India’s power reactors dipped below 60% over 2006-2010, reaching only 40% in 2008. Some easing after 2008 was due to the new Turamdih mill in Jharkhand state coming on line (the mine there was already operating). Political opposition has delayed new mines in Jharkhand, Meghalaya and Telengana.

A 500 MWe prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR) started construction in 2004 at Kalpakkam near Madras. It was expected to start up about the end of 2010 and produce power in 2011, but this schedule is delayed significantly. Construction was reported 94% complete in February 2013, and 1750 tonnes of sodium coolant was being loaded in June 2014.

In contrast to the situation in the 1990s, most reactors under construction more recently have been on schedule (apart from fuel shortages 2007-09), and the first two – Tarapur 3&4 – were slightly increased in capacity. These and future planned ones were 450 (now 490) MWe versions of the 202 MWe domestic products. Beyond them and the last of the 202 MWe units, future PHWR units will be nominal 700 MWe.

In 2005 four sites were approved for eight new reactors. Two of the sites – Kakrapar and Rajasthan – would have 700 MWe indigenous PHWR units, Kudankulam would have imported 1000 MWe VVER light water reactors alongside the two being built there by Russia, and the fourth site was greenfield for two 1000 MWe LWR units – Jaitapur (Jaithalpur) in the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra state, on the west coast. The plan has since expanded to six 1600 MWe EPR units here.

In April 2007 the government gave approval for the first four of eight planned 700 MWe PHWR units: Kakrapar 3&4 and Rajasthan 7&8, using indigenous technology. In mid-2009 construction approval was confirmed, and late in 2009 the finance for them was approved. Site works at Kakrapar were completed by August 2010. First concrete for Kakrapar 3&4 was in November 2010 and March 2011 respectively, after Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) approval. The AERB approved Rajasthan 7&8 in August 2010, and site works then began. First concrete was in July 2011. Construction is then expected to take 66 months to commercial operation. Their estimated cost is Rs 123.2 billion ($2.6 billion). In September 2009 L&T secured an order for four steam generators for Rajasthan 7&8, having already supplied similar ones for Kakrapar 3&4. In December 2012 L&T was awarded the $135 million contract for balance of turbine island for Rajasthan 7&8.

Construction costs of reactors as reported by AEC are about $1200 per kilowatt for Tarapur 3&4 (540 MWe), $1300/kW for Kaiga 3&4 (220 MWe) and expected $1700/kW for the 700 MWe PHWRs with 60-year life expectancy.

Nuclear industry developments in India beyond the trade restrictions

Following the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group agreement which was achieved in September 2008, the scope for supply of both reactors and fuel from suppliers in other countries opened up. Civil nuclear cooperation agreements have been signed with the USA, Russia, France, UK, South Korea, Czech Republic and Canada, as well as Argentina, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Namibia. On the basis of the 2010 cooperation agreement with Canada, in April 2013 a bilateral safeguards agreement was signed between the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), allowing trade in nuclear materials and technology for facilities which are under IAEA safeguards. A similar bilateral agreement with Australia was signed in 2014. Both will apply essentially to uranium supply.

The initial two Russian PWR types at the Kudankulam site were apart from India’s three-stage plan for nuclear power and were simply to increase generating capacity more rapidly. Now there are plans for eight 1000 MWe units at that site, and in January 2007 a memorandum of understanding was signed for Russia to build the next four there, as well as others elsewhere in India. A further such agreement was signed in December 2010, and Rosatom announced that it expected to build no less than 18 reactors in India. Then in December 2014 another high-level nuclear cooperation agreement was signed with a view to Russia building 20 more reactors plus cooperation in building Russian-designed nuclear power plants in third countries, in uranium mining, production of nuclear fuel, and waste management. India was also to confirm a second location for a Russian plant – Haripur in West Bengal being in some doubt. Most of the new units are expected to be the larger 1200 MWe AES-2006 designs. Russia is reported to have offered a 30% discount on the $2 billion price tag for each of the phase 2 Kudankulam reactors. This is based on plans to start serial production of reactors for the Indian nuclear industry, with much of the equipment and components proposed to be manufactured in India, thereby bringing down costs.

Between 2010 and 2020, further nuclear plant construction is expected to take total gross capacity to 21,180 MWe. The nuclear capacity target is part of national energy policy. This planned increment includes those set out in the Table below including the initial 300 MWe Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR).

Looking beyond the Russian light water reactors, NPCIL had meetings and technical discussions with three major reactor suppliers – Areva of France, GE-Hitachi and Westinghouse Electric Corporation of the USA for supply of reactors for these projects and for new units at Kaiga. These resulted in more formal agreements with each reactor supplier early in 2009, as described in the Nuclear Energy Parks subsection below. The benchmark capital cost sanctioned by DAE for imported units was quoted at $1600 per kilowatt. An important aspect of all these agreements is that, as with Kudankulam, India will reprocess the used fuel to recover plutonium for its indigenous three-stage program, using a purpose-built and safeguarded Integrated Nuclear Recycle Plant.

In late 2008 NPCIL announced that as part of the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-12), it would start site work for 12 reactors including the rest of the eight 700 MWe PHWRs, three or four fast breeder reactors and one 300 MWe advanced heavy water reactor (AHWR) in 2009. NPCIL said that “India is now focusing on capacity addition through indigenisation” with progressively higher local content for imported designs, up to 80%. Looking further ahead its augmentation plan included construction of 25-30 light water reactors of at least 1000 MWe by 2030. In the event only four 700 MWe PHWR units started construction over 2007-12.

Early in 2012 NPCIL projections had the following additions to the 10.08 GWe anticipated in 2017 as “possible”: 4.2 GWe PHWR, 7.0 GWe PHWR (based on recycled U), 40 GWe LWR, 2.0 GWe FBR.

In June 2012 NPCIL announced four new sites for twin PHWR units: at Gorakhpur/ Kumbariya near Fatehabad district in Haryana, at Banswada in Rajasthan, at Chutka in Mandla district and at Bheempur also in Madhya Pradesh. Initially these would add 2800 MWe, followed by a further 2800. Site work has started at Gorakhpur with Haryana state government support.

The EIA report for Chutka Madhya Pradesh power plant was released in March 2013, the expected cost for two units is Rs 16550 crores ($2.78 billion). Construction start is planned for June and December 2015, with completion in December 2020 and June 2021.

NPCIL is also planning to build an indigenous 900 MWe PWR, the Indian Pressurised Water Reactor (IPWR), designed by BARC in connection with its work on submarine power plants. A site for the first plant is being sought, a uranium enrichment plant is planned, the reactor pressure vessel forging will be carried out by Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and NPCIL’s new joint venture plant at Hazira, and the turbine will come from Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL).

Meanwhile, NPCIL is offering both 220 and 540 MWe PHWRs for export, in markets requiring small- to medium-sized reactors.

Power reactors planned or proposed

Reactor State Type MWe gross, each Project control Start construction Start operation
Kudankulam 3 Tamil Nadu AES-92 1050 NPCIL Jan 2016 2022
Kudankulam 4 Tamil Nadu AES-92 1050 NPCIL 2017? 2023
Jaitapur 1&2 Ratnagiri, Maharashtra EPR x 2 1700 NPCIL 2015-16? ?
Gorakhpur 1&2 Haryana (Fatehabad district) PHWR x 2 700 NPCIL June 2015 2021, 22
Chutka 1&2 Madhya Pradesh PHWR x 2 700 NPCIL 6 & 12/2015 2020, 21
Bhimpur 1&2 Madhya Pradesh PHWR x 2 700 NPCIL 2014?
Mahi Banswara 1&2 Rajasthan PHWR x 2 700 NPCIL by 2017
Kaiga 5&6 Karnataka PHWR x 2 700 NPCIL by 2017
Kovvada 1-2 Srikakulam, Andhra Pradesh ESBWR x 2 1600 NPCIL site works, 2016?
Mithi Virdi 1&2 Bhavnagar, Gujarat AP1000 x 2 1250 NPCIL 2016?
Kudankulam 5&6 Tamil Nadu AES 92 x 2 1050 NPCIL ?
Kalpakkam 2&3 Tamil Nadu FBR x 2 500 Bhavini 2014? 2019-20
Subtotal planned 22 units 21,300 MWe
Kudankulam 7&8 Tamil Nadu PWR – AES 92 or AES-2006 1050-1200 NPCIL
Gorakhpur 3&4 Haryana (Fatehabad district) PHWR x 2 700 NPCIL 2019
Rajouli, Nawada Bihar PHWR x 2 700 NPCIL
? PWR x 2 1000 NPCIL/NTPC
Jaitapur 3&4 Ratnagiri, Maharashtra PWR – EPR 1700 NPCIL 2016 2021-22
? ? FBR x 2 500 Bhavini 2017
? AHWR 300 NPCIL 2016-17 2022
Jaitapur 5&6 Ratnagiri, Maharashtra PWR – EPR 1600 NPCIL
Markandi (Pati Sonapur) Orissa PWR 6000 MWe
Mithi Virdi 3&4 Bhavnagar, Gujarat 2 x AP1000 1250 NPCIL 2015 2020-21
Kovvada 3&4 Srikakulam, Andhra Pradesh 2 x ESBWR 1600 NPCIL
Nizampatnam 1-6 Guntur, Andhra Pradesh 6x? 1400 NPCIL
Haripur 1&2 West Bengal (but likely relocated, maybe to Orissa) PWR x 4 VVER-1200 1200 2014? 2019-21
Haripur 3&4 West Bengal PWR x 4 VVER1200 1200 2017 2022-23
Pulivendula Kadapa, Andhra Pradesh PWR? PHWR? 1000? 700? NPCIL 51%, AP Genco 49%
Chutka 3&4 Madhya Pradesh PHWR x 2 1400 BHEL-NPCIL-GE?
Mithi Virdi 5&6 Bhavnagar, Gujarat AP1000 x 2 1250 2023-24
Kovvada 5&6 Srikakulam, Andhra Pradesh ESBWR x 2 1600
Subtotal proposed approx 35 40,000 MWe approx

For WNA reactor table: first 22 units ‘planned’, next (estimated) 35 ‘proposed’.

Nuclear Energy Parks

In line with past practice such as at the eight-unit Rajasthan nuclear plant, NPCIL intends to set up five further “Nuclear Energy Parks”, each with a capacity for up to eight new-generation reactors of 1,000 MWe, six reactors of 1600 MWe or simply 10,000 MWe at a single location. By 2032, 40-45 GWe would be provided from these five. NPCIL was hoping to be able to start work by 2012 on at least four new reactors at all four sites designated for imported plants, but this did not happen.

planned_nuclear_power_plants_in_india energy power

The new energy parks are to be:

Kudankulam (KKNPP) in Tamil Nadu: three more pairs of Russian VVER units, making 9200 MWe. Environmental approval has been given for the first four. A general framework agreement for construction of units 3 & 4 was to be signed in mid-2010, with equipment supply and service contracts soon after, but these were delayed on account of supplier liability questions, with India wanting the units to come under its 2010 vendor liability law. In July 2012 Russia agreed to $3.5 billion in export financing for units 3&4, to cover 85% of their cost. A further credit line of $800 million is available to cover fuel supplies. The credit lines carry interest at 4% pa and would be repayable over 14 years and 4 years respectively, from one year after the start of power generation. The Indian government said it expected to take up the credit offers to the value of $3.06 billion, about 53% of the $5.78 billion estimated total project cost.

In July 2012 coastal regulation zone clearance was obtained for units 3-6 of 1000 MWe each from the Ministry of Environment & Forests, mainly related to seawater cooling. Environmental approval for units 3-6 had been obtained earlier. In March 2013 cabinet approved construction of units 3&4, and site work began. In April 2014 NPCIL signed a Rs 33,000 crore ($ 5.47 billion) agreement with Rosatom for units 3&4, having apparently resolved the liability question (but see section below). In May a general framework agreement to build the plants was signed, and in December contracts with Rosatom for the supply of major components for the two units were signed. DAE said that “all efforts are being made to launch these reactors” in FY 2014-15. Major site works are now scheduled for March 2015, with construction start early in 2016, and 72-month construction period under NIAEP-ASE supervision.

Jaitapur (JNPP) in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district: A €7 billion framework agreement with Areva was signed in December 2010 for the first two EPR reactors, along with 25 years supply of fuel. Environmental approval has been given for these, with coastal zone clearances, and site work was to start in 2011 with a view to 2013 construction start, but early in 2014 the application for siting consent was still under review by AERB. In July 2009 Areva submitted a bid to NPCIL to build the first two EPR units, which will have Alstom turbine-generators, accounting for about 30% of the total EUR 7 billion plant cost. The site will host six units, providing 9600 MWe. Areva now hopes to obtain export credit financing and sign a contract by the end of 2012, which would put the first two units on line in 2020 and 2021. In 2013 negotiations continued and the government said it expected the cost of the first two units to be 1,20,000 crore ($21 billion). France has agreed to a 25-year loan for the project at 4.8%.

In March 2014 Areva and DAE with NPCIL were reported to have agreed on a power price of Rs 6.5/kWh (10.6 US cents, $106/MWh), though Areva had been aiming for Rs 9.18. However, in June 2014 it was reported that there was as yet no agreement and that DAE was adamant that the cost could not be more than Rs 6.5/kWh. Areva was holding out for the higher price.

Gorakhpur Haryana Anu Vidyut Pariyojana (GHAVP) in the Fatehabad district of Haryana is a project with four indigenous 700 MWe PHWR units in two phases, and the AEC has approved the state’s proposal for the 2800 MWe plant. The inland northern state of Haryana is one of the country’s most industrialized and has a demand of 8900 MWe, but currently generates less than 2000 MWe and imports 4000 MWe. The Gorakhpur plant may be paid for by the state government or the Haryana Power Generation Corp.

NPCIL is undertaking site infrastructure works near the villages of Kumharia and Gorakhpur, and the official groundbreaking was in January 2014. A final environmental assessment for the project was approved in December 2013, and government approval for Gorakhpur phase 1 was in February 2014. Construction is due to begin in June 2015, with the first unit on line in 2021 after 63 months’ construction. Cost of the first two units is put at INR 210 or 235 billion ($3.4 or 3.8 billion).

Chhaya-Mithi Virdi in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar distirct will host up to six Westinghouse AP1000 units built in three stages on the coast. NPCIL says it has initiated pre-project activities here, with groundbreaking in 2012. A preliminary environmental assessment for the whole project was completed in January 2013. State and local government and coastal zone clearances have been obtained. Westinghouse signed an agreement with NPCIL in June 2012 to launch negotiations for an early works agreement which was expected in a few months. A preliminary commercial contract between NPCIL and Westinghouse was signed in September 2013 along with an agreement to carry out a two-year preliminary safety analysis for the project. NPCIL said that it “must lay emphasis on strong public acceptance outreach and project planning.” In October 2014 the Ministry of Environment & Forests asked NPCIL for further assessment of environmental and land acquisition matters in its environment impact assessment (EIA). NPCIL was then in the process of obtaining site clearance form the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB). The first stage of two units is due on line in 2019-20, the others to 2024.

Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh’s northern coastal Srikakulam district will host six GE Hitachi ESBWR units. GE Hitachi said in June 2012 that it expected soon to complete an early works agreement with NPCIL to set terms for obtaining approval from the Government for the project. Site preparation is under way, and a preliminary environmental assessment is being prepared. In February 2014 NPCIL said it hoped to pour first concrete by early 2015 for the first 1594 MWe reactor. Compensation for land acquisition was being organised.

In addition to the original five energy parks:

Chutka (CNPP) in inland Madhya Pradesh is also designated for two indigenous 700 MWe PHWR units. NPCIL has initiated pre-project activities here, and a public hearing at Chutka was in February 2014. A preliminary environmental assessment is being prepared.

Mahi Banswara in Rajasthan is a new site for 700 MWe PHWRs. Land acquisition, government approval and environmental assessment are in train.

Haripur in West Bengal: to host four or six further Russian VVER-1200 units, making 4800 MWe. NPCIL has initiated pre-project activities here, and groundbreaking was planned for 2012. However, strong local opposition led the West Bengal government to reject the proposal in August 2011, and change of site to Orissa state has been suggested. Certainly Rosatom expects to build six further Russian VVER reactors at a further site, not yet identified.

At Markandi (Pati Sonapur) in Orissa there are plans for up to 6000 MWe of PWR capacity. Major industrial developments are planned in that area and Orissa was the first Indian state to privatise electricity generation and transmission. State demand is expected to reach 20 billion kWh/yr by 2010.

Bhimpur in Madhya Pradesh has in-principle government approval for two 700 MWe PHWRs, according to the DAE annual report 2013-14.

The AEC has also mentioned possible new nuclear power plants in Bihar and Jharkhand.

In 2014 the Chinese president initiated discussions with his Indian counterpart about building nuclear power plants, raising he possibility that China could compete with France, Russia, Japan and the USA.

NTPC Plans

India’s largest power company, National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) in 2007 proposed building a 2000 MWe nuclear power plant to be in operation by 2017. It would be the utility’s first nuclear plant and also the first conventional nuclear plant not built by the government-owned NPCIL. This proposal became a joint venture set up in April 2010 with NPCIL holding 51%, and possibly extending to multiple projects utilising local and imported technology. One of the sites earmarked for a pair of 700 MWe PHWR units in Haryana or Madhya Pradesh may be allocated to the joint venture.

NTPC said it aimed by 2014 to have demonstrated progress in “setting up nuclear power generation capacity”, and that the initial “planned nuclear portfolio of 2000 MWe by 2017” may be greater. However in 2012 it indicated a downgrading of its nuclear plans. NTPC, now 89.5% government-owned, planned to increase its total installed capacity from 30 GWe in about 2007 to 50 GWe by 2012 (72% of it coal) and 75 GWe by 2017. It is also forming joint ventures in heavy engineering.

NTPC is reported to be establishing a joint venture with NPCIL and BHEL to sell India’s largely indigenous 220 MWe heavy water power reactor units abroad, possibly in contra deals involving uranium supply from countries such as Namibia and Mongolia.

Other indigenous arrangements

The 87% state-owned National Aluminium Company (Nalco) has signed an agreement with NPCIL relevant to its hopes of building a 1400 MWe nuclear power plant on the east coast, in Orissa’s Ganjam district. A more specific agreement was signed in November 2011 to set up a joint venture with NPCIL – NPCIL Nalco Power Co Ltd – giving it 29% equity in Kakrapar 3 & 4 (total 1300 MWe net) under construction in Gujarat on the west coast for Rs 1700 crore ($285 million). The total project size is Rs 11,500 crore with the total debt requirement at Rs 7,000 crore.Nalco is seeking government permission to increase this share to 49%. It is also seeking to buy uranium assets in Africa. Nalco already has its own 1200 MWe coal-fired power plant in Orissa state at Angul, being expanded to 1200 MWe, to serve its refinery and its Angul smelter of 345,000 tpa, being expanded to 460,000 tpa (requiring about 1 GWe of constant supply).

India’s national oil company, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOC), in November 2009 joined with NPCIL in an agreement “for partnership in setting up nuclear power plants in India.” The initial plant envisaged was to be at least 1000 MWe, and NPCIL would be the operator and at least 51% owner. In November 2010 IOC agreed to take a 26% stake in Rajasthan 7 & 8 (2×700 MWe) as a joint venture, with the option to increase this to 49%. The estimated project cost is Rs 12,320 crore (123 billion rupees, $2.1 billion), and the 26% will represent only 2% of IOC’s capital budget in the 11th plan to 2012. The formal JV agreement was signed in January 2011.

The cash-rich Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), which (upstream of IOC) provides some 80% of the country’s crude oil and natural gas and is 84% government-owned, is having formal talks with AEC about becoming a minority partner with NPCIL on present or planned 700 MWe PHWR projects. It was later reported that ONGC intended to build 2000 MWe in joint venture with NPCIL (51%).

Indian Railways, with power requirement of 3000 MWe now and rising to 5000 MWe about 2022, has also approached NPCIL to set up a joint venture to build two 500 MWe PHWR nuclear plants on railway land or existing nuclear sites for its own power requirements. The Railways already has a joint venture with NTPC – Bhartiya Rail Bijlee Company – to build a 1000 MWe coal-fired power plant at Nabi Nagar in Aurangabad district of Bihar, with the 250 MWe units coming on line 2014-15. The Railways also plans to set up another 2 x 660 MWe supercritical thermal power plant at Adra in Purulia district of West Bengal for traction supply at economical tariff. Some 23,500 km of its 65,000 km lines are electrified, and it spends 8000 crore ($1.34 billion) per year on power, at INR 5.4/kWh which it expects to reduce to INR 4.0/kWh (9 cents to 6.6 c).

The Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) and NPCIL are discussing a joint venture to build a 700 MWe PHWR plant. The site will be chosen by NPCIL, in Gujarat of elsewhere in western India.

The government has announced that it intends to amend the law to allow private companies to be involved in nuclear power generation and possibly other aspects of the fuel cycle, but without direct foreign investment. In anticipation of this, Reliance Power Ltd, GVK Power & Infrastructure Ltd and GMR Energy Ltd are reported to be in discussion with overseas nuclear vendors including Areva, GE-Hitachi, Westinghouse and Atomstroyexport.

In September 2009 the AEC announced a version of its planned Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (the AHWR-300 LEU) designed for export.

In August and September 2009 the AEC reaffirmed its commitment to the thorium fuel cycle, particularly thorium-based FBRs, to make the country a technological leader.

Overseas reactor vendors

As described above, there have been a succession of agreements with Russia’s Atomstroyexport to build further VVER reactors. In March 2010 a ‘roadmap’ for building six more reactors at Kudankulam by 2017 and four more at Haripur after 2017 was agreed, bringing the total to 12. The number may be increased after 2017, in India’s 13th five-year plan. Associate company Atomenergomash (AEM) is setting up an office in India with a view to bidding for future work there and in Vietnam, and finalizing a partnership with an Indian heavy manufacturer, either L&T (see below) or another. A Russian fuel fabrication plant is also under consideration.

In February 2009 Areva signed a memorandum of understanding with NPCIL to build two, and later four more, EPR units at Jaitapur, and a formal contract was expected. This followed the government signing a nuclear cooperation agreement with France in September 2008. Areva says that the EPR has achieved Design Acceptance Certification in India.

In March 2009 GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy signed agreements with NPCIL and Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) to begin planning to build a multi-unit power plant using 1350 MWe Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWR). In May 2009 L&T was brought into the picture. In April 2010 it was announced that the BHEL-NPCIL joint venture was still in discussion with an unnamed technology partner to build a 1400 MWe nuclear plant at Chutka in Madhya Pradesh state, with Madhya Pradesh Power Generating Company Limited (MPPGCL) the nodal agency to facilitate the execution of the project.

In May 2009 Westinghouse signed a memorandum of understanding with NPCIL regarding deployment of its AP1000 reactors, using local components (probably from L&T).

After a break of three decades, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) was keen to resume technical cooperation, especially in relation to servicing India’s PHWRs (though this would now be undertaken by Candu Energy), and there were preliminary discussions regarding the sale of an ACR-1000.

In August 2009 NPCIL signed agreements with Korea Electric Power Co (KEPCO) to study the prospects for building Korean APR-1400 reactors in India. This could proceed following bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements signed in October 2010 and July 2011.

The LWRs to be set up by these foreign companies are reported to have a lifetime guarantee of fuel supply.

Fast neutron reactors

Longer term, the AEC envisages its fast reactor program being 30 to 40 times bigger than the PHWR program, and initially at least, largely in the military sphere until its “synchronised working” with the reprocessing plant is proven on an 18- to 24-month cycle. This will be linked with up to 40,000 MWe of light water reactor capacity, the used fuel feeding ten times that fast breeder capacity, thus “deriving much larger benefit out of the external acquisition in terms of light water reactors and their associated fuel”. This 40 GWe of imported LWR capacity multiplied to 400 GWe via FBR would complement 200-250 GWe based on the indigenous three-stage program of PHWR-FBR-AHWR (see Thorium cycle section below). Thus AEC is “talking about 500 to 600 GWe nuclear over the next 50 years or so” in India, plus export opportunities.

In 2002 the regulatory authority issued approval to start construction of a 500 MWe prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR) at Kalpakkam and this has been built by BHAVINI (Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd), a government enterprise set up under DAE to focus on FBRs. It was expected to start up in September 2014, fuelled with MOX (mixed uranium-plutonium oxide, the 30% of reactor-grade Pu being from its existing PHWRs) made at Tarapur by BARC. It has a blanket with uranium and thorium to breed fissile plutonium and U-233 respectively, taking the thorium program to stage two, and setting the scene for eventual full utilisation of the country’s abundant thorium to fuel reactors. It is a sodium-cooled pool-type reactor having two primary and two secondary loops, with four steam generators per loop. It is designed for a 40-year operating life at 75% load factor. Two more such 500 MWe fast reactors have been announced for construction at Kalpakkam, but slightly redesigned by the Indira Gandhi Centre to reduce capital cost. Then four more are planned at another site.

Initial FBRs will have mixed oxide fuel or carbide fuel, but these will be followed by metallic fuelled ones to enable shorter doubling time. One of the last of the above six, or possibly the fourth one overall, is to have the flexibility to convert from MOX to metallic fuel (ie a dual fuel unit), and it is planned to convert the small FBTR to metallic fuel about 2013 (see R&D section below). With metal fuel, a 500 MWe unit is expected to produce 2 tonnes of reactor-grade plutonium in 8-10 years.

Following these will be a 1000 MWe fast reactor using metallic fuel, and construction of the first is expected to start about 2020. This design is intended to be the main part of the Indian nuclear fleet from the 2020s. A fuel fabrication plant and a reprocessing plant for metal fuels are planned for Kalpakkam, as the Fast Reactor Fuel Cycle Facility approved for construction in 2013.

A December 2010 scientific and technical cooperation agreement between AEC and Rosatom is focused on “joint development of a new generation of fast reactors”.

Heavy engineering in India

India’s largest engineering group, Larsen & Toubro (L&T) announced in July 2008 that it was preparing to venture into international markets for supply of heavy engineering components for nuclear reactors. It formed a 20 billion rupee (US$ 463 million) venture with NPCIL to build a new plant for domestic and export nuclear forgings at its Hazira, Surat coastal site in Gujarat state. This is now under construction. It will produce 600-tonne ingots in its steel melt shop and have a very large forging press to supply finished forgings for nuclear reactors, pressurizers and steam generators, and also heavy forgings for critical equipment in the hydrocarbon sector and for thermal power plants.

In the context of India’s trade isolation over three decades L&T has produced heavy components for 17 of India’s pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs) and has also secured contracts for 80% of the components for the fast breeder reactor at Kalpakkam. It is qualified by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers to fabricate nuclear-grade pressure vessels and core support structures, achieving this internationally recognised quality standard in 2007, and further ASME accreditation in 2010. It is one of about ten major nuclear-qualified heavy engineering enterprises worldwide.

Early in 2009, L&T signed four agreements with foreign nuclear power reactor vendors. The first, with Westinghouse, sets up L&T to produce component modules for Westinghouse’s AP1000 reactor. The second agreement was with Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) “to develop a competitive cost/scope model for the ACR-1000” (though this would have lapsed). In April it signed an agreement with Atomstroyexport primarily focused on components for the next four VVER reactors at Kudankulam, but extending beyond that to other Russian VVER plants in India and internationally. Then in May 2009 it signed an agreement with GE Hitachi to produce major components for ABWRs from its new Hazira JV plant. The two companies hope to utilize indigenous Indian capabilities for the complete construction of nuclear power plants including the supply of reactor equipment and systems, valves, electrical and instrumentation products for ABWR plants to be built in India. L&T “will collaborate with GEH to engineer, manufacture, construct and provide certain construction management services” for the ABWR project. Early in 2010 L&T signed an agreement with Rolls Royce to produce technology and components for light water reactors in India and internationally.

Following the 2008 removal of trade restrictions, Indian companies led by Reliance Power (RPower), NPCIL, and Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) said that they plan to invest over US$ 50 billion in the next five years to expand their manufacturing base in the nuclear energy sector. BHEL planned to spend $7.5 billion in two years building plants to supply components for reactors of 1,600 MWe. It also plans to set up a tripartite joint venture with NPCIL and Alstom to supply turbines for nuclear plants of 700 MWe, 1,000 MWe and 1,600 MWe. In June 2010 Alstom confirmed that the equal joint venture with NPCIL and BHEL would be capitalized to EUR 25 million, to provide turbines initially for eight 700 MWe PHWR units, then for imported large units. Another joint venture is with NPCIL and a foreign partner to make steam generators for 1000-1600 MWe plants.

Two contracts awarded by NPCIL to a consortium of BHEL and Alstom cover the supply and installation of turbogenerator packages for Kakrapar 3 and 4, the first indigenously designed 700 MWe pressurised heavy water reactors. The contracts are worth over INR 16,000 million ($360 million), with BHEL’s share representing around INR 8000 million ($198 million). The first contract covers the supply of the actual turbine generator packages, while the second covers associated services. BHEL and Alstom will jointly manufacture and supply the steam turbines, while BHEL will manufacture and supply the generator, moisture separator reheater and condenser, as well as undertaking the complete erection and commissioning of the turbine generator package. In August 2012 NPCIL awarded an INR 19,060 million ($343 million) contract to BHEL-Alstom for turbine generators for Rajasthan 7 & 8. Under the contract, BHEL and Alstom will together manufacture and supply the steam turbines, while the manufacture and supply of the complete generator, moisture separator reheater and condenser – including the erection and commissioning of the turbine generator package – will be undertaken by BHEL.

BHEL is also supplying steam generators for one Kakrapar unit and Rajasthan 7&8. It will also supply and install the instrumentation and controls for the turbine island secondary circuit for Rajasthan 7&8. BHEL is also supplying, constructing and commissioning the complete conventional island for the 500 MWe prototype fast breeder reactor being built at Kalpakkam.

HCC (Hindustan Construction Co.) has built more than half of India’s nuclear power capacity, notably all 6 units of the Rajasthan Atomic Power Project and also Kudankulam. It has an INR 8880 million ($160 million) contract for the main civil works for Rajasthan 7 & 8. It specializes in prestressed containment structures for reactor buildings. In September 2009 it formed a joint venture with UK-based engineering and project management firm AMEC PLC to undertake consulting services and nuclear power plant construction. HCC has an order backlog worth 10.5 billion rupees ($220 million) for nuclear projects from NPCIL and expects six nuclear reactors to be tendered by the end of 2010.

Areva signed an agreement with Bharat Forge in January 2009 to set up a joint venture in casting and forging nuclear components for both export and the domestic market, by 2012. BHEL expects to join this, and in June 2010 the UK’s Sheffield Forgemasters became a technical partner with BHEL in a £30 million deal. The partners have shortlisted Dahej in Gujarat, and Krishnapatnam and Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh as possible sites.

In August 2010 GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) signed a preliminary agreement with India’s Tata Consulting Engineers, Ltd. to explore potential project design and workforce development opportunities in support of GEH’s future nuclear projects in India – notably the proposals for six ESBWR units – and around the world.

In April 2012 Atomenergomash was negotiating with potential Indian partners on localization of some productions and design of equipment for nuclear power plants being built to the Russian technology both in India and other Asian countries such as Bangladesh and Vietnam. In 2010 a Memorandum of Understanding with Walchandnagar Industries Ltd (India) was signed by Atomenergomash.

See also India section of Heavy Manufacturing paper.

Uranium resources and mining in India

India’s uranium resources are modest, with 102,600 tonnes U as reasonably assured resources (RAR) and 37,200 tonnes as inferred resources in situ (to $260/kgU) at January 2011. In December 2014, 181,600 tU ‘resources’ was claimed by DAE. Accordingly, India expects to import an increasing proportion of its uranium fuel needs. In 2013 it was importing about 40% of uranium requirements.

* 38% vein-type deposits, 12% sandstone (Meghalaya), 12% unconformity (Lambapur-Peddagattu in AP), and 37% other – ‘strata-bound’ (Cuddapah basin, including Tummalapalle).

uranium mines_in_india nuclear energy

Exploration is carried out by the Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD). Mining and processing of uranium is carried out by Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL), also a subsidiary of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), in Jharkhand near Calcutta. Common mills are near Jaduguda (2500 t/day) and Turamdih (3000 t/day, expanding to 4500 t/day). Jaduguda ore is reported to grade 0.05-0.06%U. All Jharkhand mines are underground except Banduhurang. Another mill is at Tummalapalle in AP, expanding from 3000 to 4500 t/day.

In 2005 and 2006 plans were announced to invest almost US$ 700 million to open further mines: in Jharkand at Banduhurang, Bagjata and Mohuldih; in Meghalaya at Domiasiat-Mawthabah (with a mill); and in Telengana at Lambapur-Peddagattu (with mill 50km away at Seripally), both in Nalgonda district.

The Jaduguda/Jadugora mine was closed in September 2014 due to expiry of its mining licence, but this was renewed a few weeks later by the state government, and in December the East Singhbhum government gave approval to resume mining. AMD quotes resources as 6816 tU (March 2014).

In Jharkand, Banduhurang is India’s first open cut mine and was commissioned in 2007. Bagjata is underground and was opened in December 2008, though there had been earlier small operations 1986-91. The Mohuldih underground mine was commissioned in April 2012. The new mill at Turamdih serving these mines was commissioned in 2008. It is 7 km from Mohuldih.

In Andhra Pradesh and Telengana there are three kinds of uranium mineralisation in the Cuddapah Basin, including unconformity-related deposits in the north of it. The Tummalapalle belt with low-grade strata-bound uranium mineralisation is 160 km long, and appears increasingly prospective – AMD reports 37,000 tU in 15 km of it.

In Telengana, the new northern inland state subdivided from Andhra Pradesh in 2013, the Lambapur-Peddagattu project in Nalgonda district 110 km southeast of Hyderabad has environmental clearance for one open cut and three small underground mines (based on some 6000 tU resources at about 0.1%U) but faces local opposition. The central government had approved Rs 637 crore for the project, with processing to be at Seripally, 54 km away in Nalgonda district. In 2014 UCIL was preparing to approach the state government and renew its federal approvals for the project. A further deposit near Lambapur-Peddagattu is Koppunuru, in Guntur district of AP, now under evaluation, and Chitrial.

In August 2007 the government approved a new US$ 270 million underground mine and mill at Tummalapalle near Pulivendula in Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh, at the south end of the Basin and 300 km south of Hyderabad. Its resources have been revised upwards by AMD to 71,690 tU (March 2014) and its cost to Rs 19 billion ($430 million), and to the end of 2012 expenditure was Rs 11 billion ($202 million). The project was opened in April and first commercial production was in June 2012, using an innovative pressurised alkaline leaching process (this being the first time alkaline leaching is used in India). Production is expected to reach 220 tU/yr, and in 2013 mill capacity was being doubled at a cost of Rs 8 billion ($147 million). An expansion of or from the Tummalapalle project is the Kanampalle U project, with 38,000 tU reserves. Further southern mineralisation near Tummalapalle are Motuntulapalle, Muthanapalle, and Rachakuntapalle.

In Karnataka, UCIL is planning a small uranium mine in the Bhima basin at Gogiin Gulbarga area from 2014, after undertaking a feasibility study, and getting central government approval in mid-2011, state approval in November 2011 and explicit state support in June 2012. A portable mill is planned for Diggi or Saidpur nearby, using conventional alkaline leaching. Total cost is about $135 million. Resources are 4250 tU at 0.1% (seen as relatively high-grade) including 2600 tU reserves, sufficient for 15 years mine life, at 127 tU/yr, from fracture/fault-controlled uranium mineralisation. UCIL plans also to utilise the uranium deposits in the Bhima belt from Sedam in Gulbarga to Muddebihal in Bijapur.

In Meghalaya, close to the Bangladesh border in the West Khasi Hills, the Domiasiat-Mawthabah mine project (near Nongbah-Jynrin) is in a high rainfall area and has also faced longstanding local opposition partly related to land acquisition issues but also fanned by a campaign of fearmongering. For this reason, and despite clear state government support in principle, UCIL does not yet have approval from the state government for the open cut mine at Kylleng-Pyndengsohiong-Mawthabah – KPM – (formerly known as Domiasiat) though pre-project development has been authorised on 422 ha. However, federal environmental approval in December 2007 for a proposed uranium mine and processing plant here and for the Nongstin mine has been reported. There is sometimes violent opposition by NGOs to uranium mine development in the West Khasi Hills, including at KPM/ Domiasiat and Wakhyn, which have estimated resources of 9500 tU and 8000 tU respectively. Tyrnai is a smaller deposit in the area. The status and geography of all these is not known, beyond AMD being reported as saying that UCIL is “unable to mine them because of socio-economic problems”. Mining is not expected before 2017.

Fracture/fault-controlled uranium mineralisation similar to that in Karnataka is reported in the 130 km long Rohil belt in Sikar district in Rajasthan, with 6133 tU identified (March 2014).

AMD reports further uranium resources in Chattisgarh state (3380 tU), Himachal Pradesh (665 tU), Maharashtra (300 tU), and Uttar Pradesh (750 tU).

India’s uranium mines and mills – existing and planned

State, district Mine Mill Operating from tU per year
Jharkhand Jaduguda Jaduguda 1967 (mine)1968 (mill) 200 total from mill
  Bhatin Jaduguda 1967
  Narwapahar Jaduguda 1995
  Bagjata Jaduguda 2008
Jharkhand, East Singhbum dist. Turamdih Turamdih 2003 (u/g mine)2008 (mill) 190 total from mill
  Banduhurang Turamdih 2007 (open pit)
  Mohuldih Turamdih 2012
Andhra Pradesh, Kadapa/ YSR district Tummalapalle Tummalapalle 2012 220 increasing to 330
Andhra Pradesh, Kadapa/ YSR district Kanampalle Kanampalle? 2017
Telengana, Nalgonda dist. Lambapur-Peddagattu Seripally/Mallapuram 2016? 130
Karnataka, Gulbarga dist. Gogi Diggi/Saidpur 2014 130
Meghalaya Kylleng-Pyndeng-Sohiong-Mawthabah (KPM), (Domiasiat), Wakhyn Mawthabah 2017 (open pit) 340

However, India has reasonably assured resouirces of 319,000 tonnes of thorium – about 13% of the world total, and these are intended to fuel its nuclear power program longer-term (see below). AMD claims almost 12 million tonnes of monazite which might contain 700,000 tonnes of thorium.

In September 2009 largely state-owned Oil & Natural Gas Corporation ONCC proposed to form a joint venture with UCIL to explore for uranium in Assam, and was later reported to be mining uranium in partnership with UCIL in the Cauvery area of Tamil Nadu.

Uranium imports

Following an IAEA safeguards agreement, an NSG resolution and finally US Congress approval of a bilateral trade agreement in October 2008, two months later Russia’s Rosatom and Areva from France had contracted to supply uranium for power generation, while Kazakhstan, Brazil and South Africa were preparing to do so. The Russian agreement was to provide fuel for PHWRs as well as the two small Tarapur reactors.

In February 2009 the actual Russian contract was signed with TVEL to supply 2000 tonnes of natural uranium fuel pellets for PHWRs over ten years, costing $780 million, and 58 tonnes of low-enriched fuel pellets for the Tarapur reactors. The 300 tU Areva shipment arrived in June 2009. RAPS 2 became the first PHWR to be fuelled with imported uranium, followed by units 5&6 there.

In January 2009 NPCIL signed a memorandum of understanding with Kazatomprom for supply of 2100 tonnes of uranium concentrate over six years and a feasibility study on building Indian PHWR reactors in Kazakhstan. NPCIL said that it represented “a mutual commitment to begin thorough discussions on long-term strategic relationship.” The actual agreement in April 2011 covered 2100 tonnes by 2014. In March 2013 both countries agreed to extend the civil nuclear cooperation agreement past 2014.

In September 2009 India signed uranium supply and nuclear cooperation agreements with Namibia and Mongolia. In March 2010 Russia offered India a stake in the Elkon uranium mining development in its Sakha Republic, and agreed on a joint venture with ARMZ Uranium Holding Co. In August 2014 Navoi Mining and Metallurgical Combine (NMMC) in Uzbekistan signed a contract for supply of 2000 tonnes of U3O8 to India during the four years to 2018, its first export to India. In September 2014 a bilateral safeguards agreement with Australia was signed, enabling supply from there.

In August 2014 Navoi Mining and Metallurgical Combine (NMMC) in Uzbekistan signed a contract for supply of 2000 tonnes of U3O8 to India during the four years to 2018, its first export to India.

As of August 2010 the DAE said that seven reactors (1400 MWe) were using imported fuel and working at full power, nine reactors (2630 MWe) used domestic uranium.

In 2014 the DAE reported that India had imported 4458 tonnes of uranium since 2008, 2058 t from TVEL, 2100 t from Kazatomprom, and 300 t from Areva.

Uranium fuel cycle

India’s main nuclear fuel cycle complex is at Hyderabad in Telengana, established in 1971. It plans to set up three more to serve the planned expansion of nuclear power and bring relevant activities under international safeguards. The first of the three will be at Kota in Rajasthan, supplying fuel for the 700 MWe PHWRs at Rawatbhata and Kakrapar by 2016. Capacity will be 500 t/yr plus 65 t of zirconium cladding. The second new complex will supply fuel to ten 700 MWe PHWRs planned in Haryana, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, but its site is not announced. The third will be at Chitradurga in the south of Karnataka state on a site with other science-based establishments, starting with a BARC enrichment plant, to supply fuel for light water reactors (see below).

DAE’s Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) at Hyderabad has six facilities under safeguards, listed in the Annex to India’s Additional Protocol with IAEA. This includes several facilities related to fuel fabrication, as part of the civil-military separation.

The NFC undertakes refining and conversion of uranium, which is received as magnesium diuranate (yellowcake) and refined to UO2. The main 600 t/yr plant fabricates PHWR fuel (which is unenriched). A small (25 t/yr) fabrication plant makes fuel for the Tarapur BWRs from imported enriched (2.66% U-235) uranium. Depleted uranium oxide fuel pellets (from reprocessed uranium) and thorium oxide pellets are also made for PHWR fuel bundles. Mixed carbide fuel for FBTR was first fabricated by Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in 1979.

Heavy water is supplied by DAE’s Heavy Water Board, and the seven plants have been working at capacity due to the current building program. Some $16 million worth of heavy water was exported to USA and France in 2013-14.

A very small centrifuge enrichment plant – insufficient even for the Tarapur reactors – is operated by DAE’s Rare Materials Plant (RMP) at Ratnahalli near Mysore, primarily for military purposes including submarine fuel, but also supplying research reactors. It started up about 1992 as a unit of BARC, and is apparently being expanded to some 25,000 SWU/yr. A conversion plant is also being built there at RMP.

DAE in 2011 announced that it would build an industrial-scale centrifuge complex, the Special Material Enrichment Facility (SMEF), in Chitradurga district, Karnataka, also as part of BARC and having both civil and naval purposes. Construction had not started in mid 2014. India’s enrichment plants are not under international safeguards. Some centrifuge R&D is undertaken by BARC at Trombay.

Fuel fabrication at up to 900 t/yr is by DAE’s Nuclear Fuel Complex in Hyderabad. DAE is setting up a second Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) – a PHWR fuel plant at Kota in Rajasthan, next to the Rawatbhata power plant – to serve the larger new reactors and those in northern India. It will have 500 t/yr capacity, from 2017, and government approval of Rs 2400 crore (24 billion rupees, $393 million) for this was in March 2014. Each 700 MWe reactor is said to need 125 t/yr of fuel. A third fuel fabrication plant is planned, with 1250 t/yr capacity, in Telengana, Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh. The company is proposing joint ventures with US, French and Russian companies to produce fuel for those reactors.

Reprocessing: Used fuel from the civil PHWRs is reprocessed by Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) at Trombay, Tarapur and Kalpakkam to extract reactor-grade plutonium for use in the fast breeder reactors. The first ‘plutonium plant’ was commissioned in 1964. Small plants at each site were supplemented by a new Kalpakkam plant of some 100 t/yr commissioned in 1998 in connection with Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), and this is being extended to reprocess FBTR carbide fuel. Apart from this all reprocessing uses the Purex process. A new 100 t/yr plant at Tarapur was opened in January 2011, and further capacity is being built at Kalpakkam.

Partitioning of Purex product in a multi-step solvent extraction process is being undertaken in a demonstration facility at Tarapur.

Reprocessing capacity early in 2011 was understood to be 200 t/yr at Tarapur, 100 t/yr at Kalpakkam and 30 t/yr at Trombay, total 330 t/yr, all related to the indigenous PHWR program and not under international safeguards. An away-from-reactor (AFR) fuel storage and another store at Tarapur are under safeguards from 2012 and 2014 and are listed in the AP Annex.

The Power Reactor Thoria Reprocessing Facility (PRTRF) was under construction at BARC in October 2013, and is designed to cope with high gamma levels from U-232. The recovered U-233 will be used in the AHWR Critical Facility.

India will reprocess the used PWR fuel from the Kudankulam and other imported reactors and will keep the plutonium. This will be under IAEA safeguards, in new plants.

In April 2010 it was announced that 18 months of negotiations with the USA had resulted in agreement to build two new reprocessing plants to be under IAEA safeguards, likely located near Kalpakkam and near Mumbai – possibly Trombay. In July 2010 an agreement was signed with the USA to allow reprocessing of US-origin fuel at one of these facilities. Later in 2010 the AEC said that India has commenced engineering activities for setting up of an Integrated Nuclear Recycle Plant with facilities for both reprocessing of used light water reactor fuel of foreign origin, and waste management.

Fast Reactor Fuel Cycle Facility (FRFCF)

To close the FBR fuel cycle a Fast Reactor Fuel Cycle Facility has long been planned, with construction originally to begin in 2008 and operation to coincide with the need to reprocess the first PFBR fuel. The PFBR and the next four FBRs to be commissioned by 2020 will use oxide fuel. After that it is expected that metal fuel with higher breeding capability will be introduced and burn-up is intended to increase from 100 to 200 GWd/t.

In 2003 a facility was commissioned at Kalpakkam to reprocess mixed carbide fuel using an advanced Purex process. In 2010 the AEC said that used mixed carbide fuel from the Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) with a burn-up of 155 GWd/t was reprocessed in the Compact Reprocessing facility for Advanced fuels in Lead cells (CORAL). Thereafter, the fissile material was re-fabricated as fuel and loaded back into the reactor, thus ‘closing’ the fast reactor fuel cycle.

In July 2013 the government approved construction of the Rs 9,600 crore (96 billion rupees, $1.61 billion) FRFCF at Kalpakkam. Work was expected to start in 2013, initially under the auspices of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR). It will serve the PFBR nearby, and will have capacity to cater for three such reactors.

Thorium fuel cycle development in India

The long-term goal of India’s nuclear program has been to develop an advanced heavy-water thorium cycle.The first stage of this employs the PHWRs fuelled by natural uranium, and light water reactors, which produce plutonium incidentally to their prime purpose of electricity generation.

Stage 2 uses fast neutron reactors burning the plutonium with the blanket around the core having uranium as well as thorium, so that further plutonium (ideally high-fissile Pu) is produced as well as U-233.

AMD has identified almost 12 million tonnes of monazite resources (typically with 6-7% thorium) and 33.7 million tonnes of zircon.

Then in stage 3, Advanced Heavy Water Reactors (AHWRs) will burn thorium-plutonium fuels in such a manner that breeds U-233 which can eventually be used as a self-sustaining fissile driver for a fleet of breeding AHWRs. An alternative stage 3 is molten salt breeder reactors (MSBR), which are firming up as an option for eventual large-scale deployment. See R&D section under IGCAR.

In 2002 the regulatory authority issued approval to start construction of a 500 MWe prototype fast breeder reactor at Kalpakkam and this is now under construction by BHAVINI. It is expected to be operating in 2015, fuelled with uranium-plutonium oxide (MOX, the reactor-grade Pu being from its existing PHWRs). It will have a blanket with thorium and uranium to breed fissile U-233 and plutonium respectively. This will take India’s ambitious thorium program to stage 2, and set the scene for eventual full utilisation of the country’s abundant thorium to fuel reactors. Six more such 500 MWe fast reactors have been announced for construction, four of them by 2020. This fleet of fast reactors will breed the required plutonium which is the key to unlocking the energy potential of thorium in AHWRs. This will take another 15-20 years, and so it will still be some time before India is using thorium energy to any extent.

So far about one tonne of thorium oxide fuel has been irradiated experimentally in PHWR reactors* and has reprocessed and some of this has been reprocessed, according to BARC. A reprocessing centre for thorium fuels is being set up at Kalpakkam in connection with Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR).

* Notably Kakrapar 1&2, Rajasthan 2-4, Kaiga 1&2 have irradiated 232 fuel bundles to maximum burn-up of 14 GWd/t.

In October 2013 BARC said that premature deployment of thorium would lead to sub-optimal use of indigenous energy resources, and that it would be necessary to build up a significant amount of fissile material before launching the thorium cycle in a big way for the third stage (though the demonstration AHWR should be operating by 2022). Incorporation of thorium in the blankets of metal-fuelled fast breeder reactors would be after significant FBR capacity was operating. Hence thorium-based reactor deployment is expected to be “beyond 2070”. Surplus U-233 from FBR blankets could be used in HTRs including molten salt breeder reactors. See R&D section under IGCAR.

Design of the first 300 MWe AHWR (920 MWt, 284 MWe net) was completed early in 2014 at BARC. It is mainly a thorium-fuelled reactor but is versatile regarding fuel. Construction of the first one is due to start in the 12th plan period to 2017, possibly 2016, for operation about 2022, though no site has yet been announced. By mid-2010 a pre-licensing safety appraisal had been completed by the AERB and site selection was in progress. The AHWR can be configured to accept a range of fuel types including U-Pu MOX, Th-Pu MOX, and Th-U-233 MOX in full core, the U-233 coming from reprocessing in closed fuel cycle. A co-located fuel cycle facility is planned, with remote handling for the highly-radioactive fresh fuel.*

* In 2008 an AHWR critical facility was commissioned at BARC “to conduct a wide range of experiments, to help validate the reactor physics of the AHWR through computer codes and in generating nuclear data about materials, such as thorium/uranium-233 based fuel, which have not been extensively used in the past.” It has all the components of the AHWR’s core including fuel and heavy water moderator, and can be operated in different modes with various kinds of fuel in different configurations.

The 300 MWe AHWR will have vertical pressure tubes in which the light water coolant under high pressure will boil at 285°C, circulation being by convection. Thermal efficiency is 30.9%. It is moderated by heavy water. There are 452 fuel assemblies, with burn-up of 38 GWd/t. A large heat sink or “gravity-driven water pool” with 7000 cubic metres of water is near the top of the reactor building and has a safety function. It has a slightly negative void coefficient of reactivity and several advanced passive safety features to enable meeting next-generation safety requirements such as 72-hour grace period for operator response, elimination of the need for exclusion zone beyond the plant boundary, 100-year design life, and high level of fault tolerance. The advanced safety characteristics have been verified in a series of experiments carried out in full-scale test facilities. It is claimed that per unit of energy produced, the amount of long-lived minor actinides generated is nearly half of that produced in current generation light water reactors. A high level of radioactivity in the fissile and fertile materials recovered from the used fuel of the AHWR, and their isotopic composition, preclude the use of these materials for nuclear weapons*.

* 9.5% of the plutonium is Pu-238.

In 2009 the AEC also announced an export version of the AHWR, the AHWR300-LEU. This will use low-enriched uranium plus thorium (Th-LEU MOX) as a fuel, dispensing with the plutonium input. About 39% of the power will come from thorium (via in situ conversion to U-233, cf two-thirds in AHWR), and burn-up will be 61 GWd/t. Uranium enrichment level will be 19.75%, giving 4.21% average fissile content of the U-Th fuel. The design is based on once-through fuel cycle during its lifetime. While closed fuel cycle is possible, this is not required or envisaged, and the used fuel, with about 8% fissile isotopes can be used in light water reactors. Plutonium production will be less than in light water reactors, the fissile proportion will be less and the Pu-238 portion three times as high. With also a significant level of gamma-emitting U-232 in the used fuel, there is inherent proliferation resistance. The design is intended for overseas sales, and the AEC says that “the reactor is manageable with modest industrial infrastructure within the reach of developing countries”.

A third variety is the AHWR-Pu, which will have Pu-Th MOX and Th-U-233 MOX fuel.

An NPCIL presentation early in 2012 had LEU AHWRs being fueled with LEU-thorium, while U-233 and thorium from fast reactors, along with used fuel from those AHWRs, fueled accelerator-driven subcritical molten salt reactors. Thorium was evidently the main fuel for both these types. Also AHWR-LEU produces half as much minor actinides as LWR.

Radioactive Waste Management in India

In October 2013 BARC stressed the role of accelerator-driven subcritical molten salt reactor systems (ADS) burning minor actinides arising from partitioning of PHWR and LWR Purex output. These working in tandem would address waste issues more effectively and safely than using critical fast reactors to burn minor actinides. Pyroprocessing would treat these wastes.

Radioactive wastes from the nuclear reactors and reprocessing plants are treated and stored at each site. Waste immobilisation plants (WIP) are in operation at Tarapur and Trombay and another vitrification plant was commissioned by BARC in 2013 at Kalpakkam for wastes from reprocessing Madras (MAPS) used fuel. The WIPs use borosilicate glass, as in Europe.

Research on final disposal of high-level and long-lived wastes in a geological repository is in progress at BARC.

Regulation and safety

The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was established in 1948 under the Atomic Energy Act as a policy body. Then in 1954 the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) was set up to encompass research, technology development and commercial reactor operation. The current Atomic Energy Act is 1962, and it permits only government-owned enterprises to be involved in nuclear power.

The DAE includes NPCIL, Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL, mining and processing), Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD, exploration), Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (reactor control and instrumentation) and BHAVINI* (for setting up fast reactors). The DAE also controls the Heavy Water Board for production of heavy water and the Nuclear Fuel Complex for fuel and component manufacture.

* Bhartiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd

The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) was formed in 1983 and comes under the AEC but is independent of DAE. It is responsible for the regulation and licensing of all nuclear facilities, and their safety and carries authority conferred by the Atomic Energy Act for radiation safety and by the Factories Act for industrial safety in nuclear plants. However, it is not an independent statutory authority, and its 1995 report on a safety assessment of DAE’s plants and facilities was reportedly shelved by the AEC. In April 2011 the government announced that it would legislate to set up a new independent and autonomous Nuclear Regulatory Authority of India that will subsume the AERB, and that previous safety assessments of Indian plants would be made public.

india_structure nuclear energy

In August 2012 a parliamentary report from the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the AERB pointed out serious organisational flaws and numerous failings relative to international norms. The most fundamental issue highlighted by the report was the unsatisfactory legal status and authority of the AERB. Despite India’s international commitments, awareness of best practice and internal expert recommendations, the report said, “the legal status of AERB continued to be that of an authority subordinate to the central government, with powers delegated to it by the latter.” The CAG report emphasized the need to make the regulator independent of industry and government and insulated from commercial or political interference. The AERB had failed to prepare an overall nuclear radiation safety planning policy as required in 1983, and had failed to set up radiation safety directorates in 35 administrative areas to ensure the safe use of radiation in medical and industrial facilities, as required by a 2001 Supreme Court order. It had undertaken only 15% of the recommended level of inspections at industrial radiography and radiotherapy units, relative to IAEA norms, and had not achieved cost recovery from licensees. There was no detailed inventory of radioactive sources to help ensure safe disposal, and no “proper mechanism” to check the safe disposal of radioactive wastes.

This was largely anticipated and in September 2011 a bill to set up new stronger and more independent national nuclear regulatory authorities to oversee radiation and nuclear safety was introduced to India’s lower house, the Lok Sabha. The Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill was drawn up in response to events at Fukushima and aims to establish several new regulatory bodies. A new senior Council of Nuclear Safety (CNS) chaired by the prime minister will oversee and review policies on radiation safety, nuclear safety and other connected matters. It will include various government ministers, with the cabinet secretary and head of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission, plus government-nominated “eminent experts”.

The second major body to be established is the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA) and will be responsible for ensuring radiation safety and nuclear safety in all civilian sector activities. The NSRA will take over the functions of the existing AERB. The government expected to introduce the bill in a 2013 session of parliament, but it was still pending in mid-2014. The AEC is preparing to invite the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) to examine the new regulatory system, which will get statutory status after the passage of the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA) Bill by Parliament. In 2012 an IAEA Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) reviewed the Rajasthan nuclear power plant, notably units 3&4, and reported favourably.

In April 2012 India’s AERB joined the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency’s Multinational Design Evaluation Program (MDEP) as its eleventh member, and first new member since the program’s inception. The NEA said that it would be actively involved in the Codes and Standards Working Group, the Digital Instrumentation and Control Working Group, the Vendor Inspection Co-operation Working Group and, “eventually, one of the specific reactor design working groups.” MDEP was launched in 2006 by the US NRC and France’s ASN with the aim of coordinating national nuclear regulatory reviews of new power reactor designs.

NPCIL is an active participant in the programmes of the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO).

Nuclear liability

India’s 1962 Atomic Energy Act says nothing about liability or compensation in the event of an accident. Also, India is not a party to the relevant international nuclear liability conventions (the IAEA’s 1997 Amended Vienna Convention and 1997 Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage – CSC). Since all civil nuclear facilities are owned and must be majority-owned by the Central Government (NPCIL and BHAVINI, both public sector enterprises), the liability issues arising from these installations are its responsibility. Following internal discussion on which might be the most appropriate international liability convention, on 10 September 2008 the government assured the USA that India “shall take all steps necessary to adhere to the Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC)”. This requires domestic legislation which is consistent with it, but under existing Indian legislation, foreign suppliers faced potentially unlimited liability, which prevented them from taking insurance cover, though contracts for Kudankulam 1&2 excluded this supplier liability.

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act related to third party liability was passed by both houses of parliament in August 2010. This is framed and was debated in the context of strong national awareness of the Bhopal disaster in 1984, probably the world’s worst industrial accident. (A Union Carbide (51% US-owned) chemical plant in the central Madhya Pradesh state released a deadly mix of methyl isocyanate and other gases due to operator error and poor plant design, killing some 15,000 people and badly affecting some 100,000 others. The company paid out some US$ 1 billion in compensation – widely considered inadequate.)

The 2010 Act places responsibility for any nuclear accident with the operator, as is standard internationally, and limits total liability to 300 million SDR (about US$ 450 million) “or such higher amount that the Central Government may specify by notification”. Operator liability is capped at Rs 1500 crore (15 billion rupees, about US$ 285 million) or such higher amount that the Central Government may notify, beyond which the Central Government is liable.

However, after compensation has been paid by the operator (or its insurers), clause 17(b) of the bill allows the operator to have legal recourse to the supplier for up to 80 years after the plant starts up if in the opinion of an Indian court the “nuclear incident has resulted as a consequence of an act of supplier or his employee, which includes supply of equipment or material with patent or latent defects or sub-standard services.” This clause giving recourse to the supplier for an operational plant is contrary to international conventions and undermines the channeling principle fundamental to nuclear liability. Also, no limit is set on suppliers’ liability.

In November 2011 the DAE published a notification that claims by plant operators against component suppliers “shall in no case exceed the actual amount of compensation” paid by utilities. The new Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Rules give plant operators the right of recourse against equipment suppliers related to “the extent of the operator’s liability” or “the value of the contract itself, whichever is less.” They also limit it to the duration of the initial plant licence “or the product liability period, whichever is longer.” This is generally seen as confusing, and is not satisfactory to major suppliers, including Indian ones such as Larsen & Toubro.

It was reported that negotiations with Russia for additional nuclear reactors at Kudankulam were proceeding with an escalation of price because of this vendor liability sub-clause, in this case involving Atomstroyexport. The original Kudankulam agreement said that supplier liability ended with delivery of the plant. US diplomatic sources are similarly opposed to supplier liability after delivery, and GE-H, Westinghouse and Areva sought changes to the law allowing vendor liability. Westinghouse says it will await India’s ratification of the CSC before offering to supply equipment to India. Basically, plans for building reactors from Russian, French and US suppliers were at a standstill as of late 2013, and India’s private sector suppliers are also affected. Plans for French and US reactors remained stalled through 2014.

The bill does not make any mention of India ratifying the CSC or any international treaty or framework governing nuclear liability under which the supplier cannot be sued in their home country. The CSC is not yet in force internationally, but Indian ratification would bring it closer to being so, and was part of the September 2008 agreement with USA. In October 2010 India signed the CSC. In mid-2011 and again in September the US Secretary for State said she expected India to ratify the CSC by year end, “and we would encourage engagement with the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure that the liability regime that India adopts by law fully conforms with the international requirements under the convention.” As of December 2014, India had not yet ratified the CSC.

In October 2010 it was reported that NPCIL proposed to set up a fund of Rs 1500 crore ($250 million) for nuclear liability “with the Centre addressing anything over this level”.

In October 2013 it was reported that DAE had set up two committees to find a middle path, with a more “scientific and rational” approach to the issue. “The committees will assess the probabilistic safety analysis to identify a model that will assess probabilities of particular equipment or a set of system to fail in a manner that can lead to an accident. Based on the study there would be a rational basis for working out an actuarial approval to decide on the quantum of liability,” according to DAE. The main committee comprises representatives from BARC, IGCAR and NPCIL (2). At the end of October 2013 the Planning Commission said that under the 2010 law the domestic plant operator could limit the amount as well as duration of the liability that accrues to foreign suppliers, so that the liability is limited and therefore insurable. However this interpretation is viewed with some scepticism.

In March 2014 the government reached some sort of agreement with Russia to provide liability insurance through the government-owned General Insurance Corporation of India (GIC), though the actual arrangements for a nuclear liability insurance product had yet to be worked out. GIC apparently discussed reinsurance with international companies, but without any agreement, due partly to the unlimited provisions of the 2010 Act, so was unable to proceed.

In April 2014 DAE approached the Ministry of Finance to urge the setting up of a nuclear insurance pool as a high priority, since insurance risks for third party liability alone amount to Rs 1500 crore. NIAEP-ASE, contracted to supply Kudankulam units 3&4, has insisted on the government providing reinsurance. In September 2014 the DAE and Ministry of Finance asked the GIC again to contrive a model for circumventing the right of recourse under the Civil Liability Act. In December 2014 GIC Re was reported to be working with the AEC to prepare a proposal for a nuclear insurance pool, with either the building contractor or the operator taking out insurance to cover the suppliers.

There is no nuclear insurance pool in India, either for direct damage or for third-party liability, apparently due to restrictions on inspection of facilities by international pools.

Research & Development

An early AEC decision was to set up the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) at Trombay near Mumbai. A series of ‘research’ reactors and critical facilities was built here: APSARA (pool-type, 1 MW, operating from 1956) was the first research reactor in Asia, CIRUS (40 MW, 1960) built under the Colombo Plan, and Dhruva (100 MW, 1985) followed it along with fuel cycle facilities. CIRUS used natural uranium fuel, was moderated by heavy water and cooled by light water. It was extensively refurbished and then recommissioned in 2002, and ran to 2010. Dhruva was fully designed and built indigenously, and uses metallic uranium fuel with heavy water as moderator and coolant. Dhruva is extensively used in neutron beam research studies involving material science and nuclear fission processes. As well as research uses, the CIRUS and Dhruva units are assumed to be largely for military purposes, as is the plutonium plant commissioned in 1965. In line with international agreement, the government shut down CIRUS at the end of 2010.

Reprocessing of used fuel was first undertaken at Trombay in 1964. When opening the new reprocessing plant at Tarapur in 2011, the prime minister reminded listeners that “The recycling and optimal utilization of uranium is essential to meet our current and future energy security needs.” An Actinide Separation Demonstration Facility is operated by BARC at Tarapur, to prepare the way for fissioning minor actinides in the fast reactors.

BARC is also responsible for the transition to thorium-based systems and in particular is developing the 300 MWe AHWR as a technology demonstration project. This will be a vertical pressure tube design with heavy water moderator, boiling light water cooling with passive safety design and thorium-plutonium based fuel (described more fully above). A large Critical Facility to validate the reactor physics of the AHWR core has been commissioned at BARC, and BARC’s research laboratory at Tarapur tests various AHWR systems.

BARC is responsible for India’s uranium enrichment projects, the pilot Rare Materials Plant (RMP) at Ratnahalli near Mysore, and the planned Special Material Enrichment Facility (SMEF) at Karnataka.

Zerlina was an experimental reactor running 1961-83 using natural uranium fuel and heavy water moderator to test concepts for PHWRs.

A series of three Purnima research reactors have explored the thorium cycle, the first (1971) running on plutonium fuel fabricated at BARC, the second and third (1984 & 1990) on U-233 fuel made from thorium – U-233 having been first separated in 1970. All three are now decommissioned. Thoria fuel rods irradiated in CIRUS have been reprocessed at the Uranium-Thorium Separation Facility (UTSF) at BARC with the recovered U-233 being fabricated as fuel for the Kamini reactor at IGCAR.

BARC has also designed an indigenous 900 MWe PWR, the Indian Pressurised Water Reactor (IPWR), which is to be deployed in collaboration with NPCIL. This follows its work building an 83 MW PWR at Kalpakkam for the INS Arihant submarine, which achieved criticality in mid-2013, using 40% enriched fuel. A 20 MW prototype submarine reactor operated at Kalpakkam from 2003 for several years. A second nuclear submarine, the INS Aridaman, is under construction.

In 1998 a 500 keV accelerator was commissioned at BARC for research on accelerator-driven subcritical systems (ADS) as an option for stage three of the thorium cycle.

The Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology (RRCAT) has Indus 1&2 synchrotrons operating – Indus 1 at 450 MeV and 100 mA, Indus 2 at 2.5 GeV and 150 mA though it has reached 200 mA.

There are plans for a new 20-30 MWt multi-purpose research reactor (MPRR) for radioisotope production, testing nuclear fuel and reactor materials, and basic research. It will use fuel enriched to 19.9% U-235 and is to be capable of conversion to an accelerator-driven system later.

Design studies are proceeding for a 200 MWe PHWR accelerator-driven system (ADS) fuelled by natural uranium and thorium. Uranium fuel bundles would be changed after about 7 GWd/t burn-up, but thorium bundles would stay longer, with the U-233 formed adding reactivity. This would be compensated for by progressively replacing some uranium with thorium, so that ultimately there is a fully-thorium core with in situ breeding and burning of thorium. This is expected to mean that the reactor needs only 140 tU through its life and achieves a high burnup of thorium – about 100 GWd/t. The disadvantage is that a 30 MW accelerator is required to run it.

The Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) at Kalpakkam was set up in 1971. Two civil research reactors here are preparing for stage two of the thorium cycle. BHAVINI is located here and draws upon the centre’s expertise and that of NPCIL in establishing the fast reactor program, including the Fast Reactor Fuel Cycle Facility.

The 40 MWt fast breeder test reactor (FBTR) based on the French Rapsodie FBR design has been operating since 1985. It has achieved 165 GWday/tonne burnup with its carbide fuel (70% PuC + 30% UC) without any fuel failure. In 2005 the FBTR fuel cycle was closed, with the reprocessing of 100 GWd/t fuel – claimed as a world first. This has been made into new mixed carbide fuel for FBTR. Prototype FBR fuel which is under irradiation testing in FBTR has reached a burnup of 90 GWd/tonne. As part of developing higher-burnup fuel for PHWRs, mixed oxide (MOX) fuel is being used experimentally in FBTR, which has been operating with a hybrid core of mixed carbide and mixed oxide fuel (the high-Pu MOX forming 20% of the core).

In 2011 FBTR was given a 20-year life extension, to 2030, and IGCAR said that its major task over this period would be large-scale irradiation of the advanced metallic fuels and core structural materials required for the next generation fast reactors with high breeding ratios (the PFBR uses MOX fuel, but later versions will use metal.).

A 300 MWt, 150 MWe fast breeder reactor as a test bed for using metallic fuel is envisaged once several MOX-fuelled fast reactors are in operation. This successor to FBTR will use U-Pu alloy or U-Pu-Zr, with electrometallurgical reprocessing. Its design is to be completed by 2017.

Also at IGCAR, the tiny Kamini (Kalpakkam mini) reactor is exploring the use of thorium as nuclear fuel, by breeding fissile U-233. It is the only reactor in the world running on U-233 fuel, according to DAE.

A Compact High-Temperature Reactor (CHTR) of 100 kWt is being designed to have long (15-year) core life and employ liquid metal (Pb-Bi eutectic) coolant. It uses TRISO fuel in tubes and blocks and is designed to operate at 1000°C for long periods giving high burn-up. It has a ceramic core with BeO and graphite moderator. It has several passive systems for heat removal. It is envisaged as a nuclear battery in remote areas with no grid.

The Innovative HTR (IHTR) of 600 MWt is envisaged for hydrogen production. It also uses TRISO fuel, with 7.3% U-233 at 1000°C, but in some 150,000 pebbles, hence online refuelling. It has active and passive systems for control and cooling. The molten salt coolant circulates by convection during normal operation. It is expected to produce 18 MWe and 80,000 m3/hr of hydrogen.

Also in the HTR area is conceptual design of an Indian Molten Salt Breeder Reactor (MSBR) of 1000 MWe which has potential to be used in stage 3 of the thorium program. It would have a breeding ratio of 1.06 to 1.14 while operating in thermal or epithermal spectrum. The fissile inventory in a 1000 MWe reactor would be about 1 tonne, compared with 6 tonnes for metal-fuelled FBR, assuming online reprocessing. It has emphasis on passive systems for reactor heat removal under all scenarios and conditions.

The Board of Radiation & Isotope Technology (BRIT) was separated from BARC in 1989 and is responsible for radioisotope production. The research reactors APSARA, CIRUS and Dhruva are used, along with RAPS for cobalt-60. A regular supply of isotopes for various uses commenced in early 1960s after CIRUS became operational. At present the reactors supply some 1250 user institutions with preparations of Mo-99 , I-131 , I-125, P -32 , S-35, Cr-51 , Co-60, Au-198, Br-82, Ir-192 and others.

BARC has used nuclear techniques to develop 37 genetically-modified crop varieties for commercial cultivation. A total of 15 sterilising facilities, particularly for preserving food, are now operational with more under construction. Radiation technology has also helped India increase its exports of food items, including to the most developed markets in the world.

India’s hybrid Nuclear Desalination Demonstration Plant (NDDP) at Kalpakkam, comprises a Reverse Osmosis (RO) unit of 1.8 million litres per day commissioned in 2002 and a Multi Stage Flash (MSF) desalination unit of 4.5 million litres per day, as well as a barge-mounted RO unit commissioned recently, to help address the shortage of water in water-stressed coastal areas. It uses about 4 MWe from the Madras nuclear power station.

The Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology is a DAE unit engaged in R&D in non-nuclear frontline research areas of lasers, particle accelerators & related technologies. It runs the Indus-1 and -2 beamlines. The Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre is another DAE unit, specializing in accelerator science and technology, associated with BARC.

A new Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNEP) was inaugurated in January 2014, pursuant to a September 2010 government approval. It will be the DAE’s sixth R&D facility. It is being built near Bahadurgarh in Haryana state, 45km from Delhi airport, and designed to strengthen India’s collaboration internationally. It will house five schools to conduct research into advanced nuclear energy systems, nuclear security, radiological safety, as well as applications for radioisotopes and radiation technologies. Russia is to help set up four of the GCNEP schools.

The DAE’s Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD) is focused on mineral exploration for uranium and thorium. It was set up in 1949, and is based in Hyderabad, with over 2700 staff. See also Mining section above.

Non-proliferation, US-India agreement and Nuclear Suppliers’ Group

India’s nuclear industry has been largely without IAEA safeguards, though four nuclear power plants (see above) have been under facility-specific arrangements related to India’s INFCIRC/66 safeguards agreement with IAEA. However, in October 2009 India’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA became operational, with the government confirming that 14 reactors would be put under the India Specific Safeguards Agreement by the end of 2014.

India’s situation as a nuclear-armed country excluded it from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)* so this and the related lack of full-scope IAEA safeguards meant that India was isolated from world trade by the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group. A clean waiver to the trade embargo was agreed in September 2008 in recognition of the country’s impeccable non-proliferation credentials. India has always been scrupulous in ensuring that its weapons material and technology are guarded against commercial or illicit export to other countries.

* India could only join the NPT if it disarmed and joined as a Non Nuclear Weapons State, which is politically impossible. See Appendix.

Following the 2005 agreement between US and Indian heads of state on nuclear energy cooperation, the UK indicated its strong support for greater cooperation and France then Canada then moved in the same direction. The US Department of Commerce, the UK and Canada relaxed controls on export of technology to India, though staying within the Nuclear Suppliers Group guidelines. The French government said it would seek a nuclear cooperation agreement, and Canada agreed to “pursue further opportunities for the development of the peaceful uses of atomic energy” with India.

In December 2006 the US Congress passed legislation to enable nuclear trade with India. Then in July 2007 a nuclear cooperation agreement with India was finalized, opening the way for India’s participation in international commerce in nuclear fuel and equipment and requiring India to put most of the country’s nuclear power reactors under IAEA safeguards and close down the CIRUS research reactor at the end of 2010. It would allow India to reprocess US-origin and other foreign-sourced nuclear fuel at a new national plant under IAEA safeguards. This would be used for fuel arising from those 14 reactors designated as unambiguously civilian and under full IAEA safeguards.

The IAEA greeted the deal as being “a creative break with the past” – where India was excluded from the NPT. After much delay in India’s parliament, it then set up a new and comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA, plus an Additional Protocol. The IAEA board approved this in July 2008, after the agreement had threatened to bring down the Indian government. The agreement is similar to those between IAEA and non nuclear weapons states, notably Infcirc-66, the IAEA’s information circular that lays out procedures for applying facility-specific safeguards, hence much more restrictive than many in India’s parliament wanted.

The next step in bringing India into the fold was the consensus resolution of the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in September 2008 to exempt India from its rule of prohibiting trade with non-members of the NPT. A bilateral trade agreement then went to US Congress for final approval, and was signed into law on 8 October 2008. Similar agreements apply with Russia and France. The ultimate objective is to put India on the same footing as China in respect to responsibilities and trade opportunities, though it has had to accept much tighter international controls than other nuclear-armed countries.

The introduction to India’s safeguards agreement says that India’s access to assured supplies of fresh fuel is an “essential basis” for New Delhi’s acceptance of IAEA safeguards on some of its reactors and that India has a right to take “corrective measures to ensure uninterrupted operation of its civilian nuclear reactors in the event of disruption of foreign fuel supplies.” But the introduction also says that India will “provide assurance against withdrawal of safeguarded nuclear material from civilian use at any time.” In the course of NSG deliberations India also gave assurances regarding weapons testing.

In October 2008 US Congress passed the bill allowing civil nuclear trade with India, and a nuclear trade agreement was signed with France. The 2008 agreements ended 34 years of trade isolation in relation to nuclear materials and technology. The CIRUS research reactor was shut down on 31 December 2010.

India’s safeguards agreement was signed early in 2009, though the timeframe for bringing the extra reactors (Kakrapar 1&2 and Narora 1&2, beyond Tarapur 1&2, Rawatbhata 1-6 and Kudankulam 1&2) under safeguards still had to be finalised. The Additional Protocol to the safeguards agreement was agreed by the IAEA Board in March and signed in May 2009 by India. The decision to ratify was announced under the new government in June 2014, with 20 facilities listed, including six at the Nuclear Fuel Complex, Hyderabad and two stores at Tarapur, plus 12 reactors. Narora 1&2 were not listed by then. The Additional Protocol came into force on 25 July 2014, giving the IAEA enhanced access to India’s civil power facilities.

In April 2012 India told the UN Security Council that given its ability and willingness to promote global non-proliferation objectives, and that it already adhered to the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), “as a country with the ability and willingness to promote global non-proliferation objectives, we believe that the next logical step is India’s membership of the four export control regimes.” The other two ‘regimes’ are the informal Australia Group (re chemical and biological weapons) and the Wassenaar Arrangement on export control for conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies. India also supports the early commencement of negotiations in the Conference of Disarmament in Geneva on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. Following ratification of the Additional Protocol, India will pursue membership of these four export control regimes.



India (along with Pakistan and Israel) was originally a ‘threshold’ country in terms of the international non-proliferation regime, possessing, or quickly capable of assembling one or more nuclear weapons: Their nuclear weapons capability at the technological level was recognised (all have research reactors at least) along with their military ambitions. Then in 1998 India and Pakistan’s military capability became more overt. All three remained remained outside the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which 186 nations have now signed. This led to their being largely excluded from trade in nuclear plant or materials, except for safety-related devices for a few safeguarded facilities.

India is opposed to the NPT as it now stands, since it is excluded as a Nuclear Weapons State, and has consistently criticised this aspect of the Treaty since its inception in 1970.

Regional rivalry

Relations between India and Pakistan are tense and hostile, and the risks of nuclear conflict between them have long been considered quite high.

In 1974 India exploded a “peaceful” nuclear device at Pokhran and then in May 1998 India and Pakistan each exploded several nuclear devices underground. This heightened concerns regarding an arms race between them.

Kashmir is a prime cause of bilateral tension, its sovereignty has been in dispute since 1948. There is persistent low level military conflict due to Pakistan backing a Muslim rebellion there.

Both countries engaged in a conventional arms race in the 1980s, including sophisticated technology and equipment capable of delivering nuclear weapons. In the 1990s the arms race quickened. In 1994 India reversed a four-year trend of reduced allocations for defence, and despite its much smaller economy, Pakistan pushed its own expenditures yet higher. Both then lost their patrons: India, the former USSR; and Pakistan, the USA.

In 1997 India deployed a medium-range missile and is now developing a long-range missile capable of reaching targets in China’s industrial heartland.

In 1995 the USA quietly intervened to head off a proposed nuclear test. The 1998 tests were unambiguously military, including one claimed to be of a sophisticated thermonuclear device. Their declared purpose was “to help in the design of nuclear weapons of different yields and different delivery systems”.

It is the growth and modernisation of China’s nuclear arsenal and its assistance with Pakistan’s nuclear power program and, reportedly, with missile technology, which now exacerbates Indian concerns. In particular, China’s People’s Liberation Army operates somewhat autonomously within Pakistan as an exporter of military material.

Indian security policies are driven by:

  • its desire to be recognised as the dominant power in the region;
  • its increasing concern with China’s expanding nuclear weapons and missile delivery programs; and
  • its enduring concern about Pakistan, with its nuclear weapons capability and now the clear capability to deliver such weapons deep into India.

It perceives nuclear weapons as a cost-effective political counter to China’s nuclear and conventional weaponry, and the effects of its nuclear weapons policy in provoking Pakistan is, by some accounts, considered incidental.

India has had an unhappy relationship with China. Soundly defeated by China in the 1962 war, relations were frozen until 1998. Since then a degree of high-level contact has been established and a few elementary confidence-building measures put in place. China still occupies some Indian territory. Its nuclear and missile support for Pakistan is however a major bone of contention.

India’s weapons material initially came from the Canadian-designed 40 MWt CIRUS “research” reactor which started up in 1960 (well before the NPT), and the 100 MWt Dhruva indigenous unit in operation since 1985, using local uranium. CIRUS was supplied with heavy water from the USA and it was probably only after the 1962 war that it was employed largely to make weapons-grade plutonium.* Development of nuclear weapons apparently began in earnest in 1967. It is estimated that India may have built up enough weapons-grade plutonium for one hundred nuclear warheads.

* Article III of the 1956 India-Canada Agreement: The Government of India will ensure that the reactor and any products resulting from its use will be employed for peaceful purposes only. Clause 9 of the India-US Heavy Water Agreement: The heavy water sold here under shall be for use only in India by the Government in connection with research into and the use atomic energy for peaceful purposes.

In response to India’s 1974 nuclear test explosion using plutonium from CIRUS, demonstrating that nuclear technology transferred to non-nuclear-weapons states for peaceful purposes could be misused, the Nuclear Suppliers Group was formed and began regulating nuclear trade, particularly with India. This is one reason why the closure of CIRUS is a condition of the NSG waiver in 2008.

Nuclear arms control in the region

The public stance of India and Pakistan on non-proliferation differs markedly.

Pakistan has initiated a series of regional security proposals. It has repeatedly proposed a nuclear-free zone in South Asia and has proclaimed its willingness to engage in nuclear disarmament and to sign the NPT if India would do so. This would involve disarming and joining as non-weapon states. It has endorsed a US proposal for a regional five power conference to consider non-proliferation in South Asia.

India has taken the view that solutions to regional security issues should be found at the international rather than the regional level, since its chief concern is with China. It therefore rejects Pakistan’s proposals.

Instead, the ‘Gandhi Plan’, put forward in 1988, proposed the revision of the NPT, which it regards as inherently discriminatory in favour of the Nuclear-Weapons States, and a timetable for complete nuclear weapons disarmament. It endorsed early proposals for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and for an international convention to ban the production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons purposes, known as the ‘cut-off’ convention.

The USA has, for some years pursued a variety of initiatives to persuade India and Pakistan to abandon their nuclear weapons programs and to accept comprehensive international safeguards on all their nuclear activities. To this end the Clinton administration proposed a conference of nine states, comprising the five established nuclear-weapon states, along with Japan, Germany, India and Pakistan.

This and previous similar proposals have been rejected by India, which countered with demands that other potential weapons states, such as Iran and North Korea, should be invited, and that regional limitations would only be acceptable if they were accepted equally by China. The USA would not accept the participation of Iran and North Korea and such initiatives lapsed.

Another, more recent approach, centres on the concept of containment, designed to ‘cap’ the production of fissile material for weapons purposes, which would hopefully be followed by ‘roll back’. To this end India and the USA jointly sponsored a UN General Assembly resolution in 1993 calling for negotiations for a ‘cut-off’ convention, the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT). Should India and Pakistan join such a convention, they would have to agree to halt the production of fissile materials for weapons and to accept international verification on their relevant nuclear facilities (enrichment and reprocessing). In short, their weapons programs would be thus ‘capped’. It appeared that India was prepared to join negotiations regarding such a FMCT under the 1995 UN Conference on Disarmament (UNCD).

However, despite the widespread international support for a FMCT, formal negotiations on cut-off have yet to begin. The UNCD can only approve decisions by consensus and since the summer of 1995, the insistence of a few states to link FMCT negotiations to other nuclear disarmament issues has brought progress on the cut-off treaty there to a standstill. In connection with its 2006 agreement with the USA, India has reiterated its support for a FMCT.

Bilateral confidence-building measures between India and Pakistan to reduce the prospects of confrontation have been limited. In 1990 each side ratified a treaty not to attack the other’s nuclear installations, and at the end of 1991 they provided one another with a list showing the location of all their nuclear plants, even though the respective lists were regarded as not being wholly accurate. Early in 1994 India proposed a bilateral agreement for a ‘no first use’ of nuclear weapons and an extension of the ‘no attack’ treaty to cover civilian and industrial targets as well as nuclear installations.

Having promoted the CTBT since 1954, India dropped its support in 1995 and in 1996 attempted to block the Treaty. Following the 1998 tests the question has been reopened and both Pakistan and India have indicated their intention to sign the CTBT. Indian ratification may be conditional upon the five weapons states agreeing to specific reductions in nuclear arsenals.


Last section based on paper by Michael Wilson, 1995, The Nuclear Future: Asia and Australia and the 1995 Conference on Non-Proliferation, published by Griffith University. Used with the author’s permission

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NPCIL 2011, Facts on Kudankulam NPP, 21 pp

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Kakodkar, A, 2013, Leveraging opportunities with thorium, ThEC2013 presentation

Wattal, P.K. 2013, Recycling challenges of Thorium fuels, ThEC2013 presentation

Saurav Jha, Coming of Age in 2014, review of India’s Nuclear Energy Program, Nuclear Engineering International, August 2014

Dept of Atomic Energy, Annual Report 2013-14


See also: India, China and NPT

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