11th Nuclear Energy Conclave

  • Recently, the 11th Nuclear Energy Conclave, organized by the India Energy Forum, under the theme: “Economics of Nuclear Power- Innovation towards Safer & Cost Effective Technologies”

Key Highlights

  • Various achievements were highlighted during the conclave such as joint ventures and increase in budget in nuclear energy sector.
  • Earlier the Atomic power plants were restricted in Southern India, but now thegovernment is setting up the nuclear plants in other parts of the country. A nuclear power plant is to be constructed in Gorakhpur, Haryana.
  • The Department of Atomic Energy is working along with TATA Memorial Centre towards the implementation of flagship programmes of the Government with priority given to shifting towards cashless transactions.
  • A “Hall of Nuclear Energy” was opened in PragatiMaidan in Delhi to educate the students and general public about the applications of nuclear energy.
  • Three technical sessions were also being held on the following  themes:
    • Growth of Nuclear Power for Meeting Base Load Demands-Opportunities & Challenges for Manufacturing Industry
    • Use of Nuclear Energy in Healthcare and Municipal Waste Treatment
    • Emerging Technologies for Economy and Enhanced Safety viz, Small & Medium Size reactors, Passive Safety features, Molten Salt Reactors

India Energy Forum (IEF)

  • Established in 2001, it is an independent, not-for-profit, research organization and represents the energy sector as a whole.
  • All major energy sector players in India such as the NTPC, NHPC, Power Grid, and other private players are members of the Forum.

Mission

  • To develop a sustainable and competitive energy sector in India
  • To promote a favourable regulatory framework for the development of the energy sector
  • To establish standards, for reliability and safety within the sector
  • To ensure an equitable deal for consumers, producers and the utilities
  • To encourage efficient and eco-friendly development and use of energy

Functions

  • It serves as an independent advocate of the industry promoting practical solutions to problems affecting project development and finance in India.
  • It works with companies and Government (Centre and States) to achieve consensus on such issues as regulatory structures and policies and the role of public organizations.
  • In addition, it closely with multilateral and domestic companies and agencies to ensure that their products and services are responsive to the needs of the project development in India.

Significance

  • It acts as a catalyst for the development of a sustainable and competitive energy sector in India.

Issues with Nuclear Sector in India

Land Acquisition Issue

  • One of the most politically contentious issues in recent times has been the government’s right to acquire land for the development of nuclear plants.There has been significant opposition and local protests as seen in Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu and Jaitapur in Maharashtra.

Displacement and loss of Livelihoods

  • Land acquisition for the plants comes at the cost of displacement and loss of the livelihoods of entire community involved leading to various other problems.

Safety Issue

  • The biggest challenge in expansion of nuclear sector in India is the safety and security of nuclear power plants. In India, every region falls in seismic zone in some way and most of our nuclear plants are in weak seismic zones but lie in coastal areas. Their structure is earthquake-resistant but they have not been tested against tsunami.
  • A single nuclear accident can cause immense damage of unimaginable consequences to human life and the biodiversity in the surrounding areas, not to mention the sociological, economical and psychological disturbances. Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and in more recent times, Fukushima disasters stand testimonial to this harsh reality.

Nuclear Waste Management Issue

  • Nuclear waste production is an especially large obstacle to the widespread acceptance of nuclear power. Radioactive waste arising from civilian nuclear activities as well as from defence-related nuclear-weapon activities, poses a formidable problem for handling and protecting the environment to be safe to the present and future generations.

Manufacturing Related Issue

  • Nuclear power plants require heavy engineering components: All the nuclear powered countries have their own domestic manufacturing base that covered most of the supply chain of materials required for building a nuclear power plant.WhileIndia's current manufacturing capability only covers the supply chain for 700 MW PHWRs. It is not yet ready to cover other reactors and reactors with capacities of more than 1 GW.
  • As India is not a signatory of NPT and NSG, nuclear supply is severely contained by sanctioned against India.

Fuel Supply Issue

  • India has low reserves of uranium. Currently, a major portion of domestic production of uranium comes from the Jaduguda mines of Jharkhand, which are old and the ore is found at great depths. Moreover, the high extraction cost makes it unviable as compared to imported uranium, the panel noted.

Way Forward

  • Nuclear Energy offers both opportunities and challenges for any aspiring countries including India. Without nuclear power, achieving energy security will be much more difficult; and without nuclear security, nuclear power is destined to failure. Nuclear security is an important component of achieving energy security.
  • Although nuclear power accounts for only about two percent of India’s installed power generation capacity, it will continue to play an important role in the overall energy mix of the country. The government has also announced plans to ramp up nuclear power from the present 7 GW to 63 GW by 2032.
  • The government has taken several measures to enable setting up of nuclear power reactors in the country. These include
    • Resolution of issues related to Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act & Creation of Indian Nuclear Insurance Pool (INIP).
    • Amendment of the Atomic Energy Act-1962 (as amended from time to time) to enable Joint Ventures of Public Sector Companies to set up nuclear power projects in the country.
    • Enabling agreements with the foreign countries for nuclear power cooperation including supply of fuel.
    • Identification and addressing of the issues in implementation of the projects through Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation “PRAGATI” platform.
  • India’s ambition to overcome poverty and rise will remain a dream unless it has access to adequate sources of power. The importance of nuclear power for India cannot be overstated despite scepticism in some quarters.

Source : Civil Services Chronicle Online, October, 2019