This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard India Country Manager Pooran Chandra Pandey
Nuclear power is the fifth-largest source of electricity in India after coal, gas, hydroelectricity and wind power. As of November 2020, India has 23 nuclear reactors in operations in 7 nuclear power plants, spread over the country, with a total installed capacity of 7,480 MW, contributing 1.8% of overall energy supply. The overall supply contribution is expected to reach 10% in about 5 years with the world’s largest nuclear power plant coming up in the country (https://www.power-technology.com/features/nuclear-power-plants-in-india/). In addition 10 more reactors are under construction with a combined generation capacity of about 8,000 MW.
In October 2010, India also drew up a 20 year plan to reach a nuclear power capacity of 63 GW by 2032. However, following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, there have been anti-nuclear protests at proposed nuclear power plant sites, notwithstanding India’s impeccable nuclear power plants’ (NPPs) safety records in the country. The country’s Supreme Court (SC) has ruled in favour of India’s peaceful, safe, and well guided pursuit of its nuclear power projects under overall supervision of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), a fully owned Indian government entity mandated to develop nuclear power technology.
Nuclear power in India has however suffered from generally low capacity factors. As of 2017, the lifetime weighted energy availability factor of the Indian fleet has been 63.5 percent. However, capacity factors have been improving in recent years. The availability factor of Indian reactors was 69.4% in the years 2015-2017. One of the main reasons for the low capacity factors has been lack of nuclear fuel.
India has been making steady advances in the field of thorium-based fuels, working to design and develop a prototype for an atomic reactor using thorium and low-enriched uranium. A key part of India’s three stage nuclear power programme is in the fusion power area.
India’s overall NPPs track record can be judged from the fact that as of 2016, it has signed civil nuclear agreements with 14 countries: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Namibia, Russia, South Korea, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Vietnam. The 48-nation NSG granted a waiver to India on September 06, 2008 in a major decision that grants access to civilian nuclear technology and fuel from other countries.
It is worth mentioning though that India is the only country with known nuclear weapons which is not a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) but is still allowed to carry out nuclear commerce with the rest of the world. India’s potential inclusion into Nuclear Suppliers Group would change the game in its favor where the country could play a more decisive role in peaceful use of nuclear energy both regionally and internationally (https://www.nuclearsuppliersgroup.org/en/).
India’s seven operational power plants with their complete description in Exhibit 01 and country’s under construction nuclear power plants (NPPs) is highlighted in Exhibit 02.
|Operational nuclear power plants in India|
|Power station||Operator||State||Type||Units||Total capacity
|Kaiga||NPCIL||Karnataka||IPHWR-220||220 × 4||880|
|220 × 2
700 × 1
|Kudankulam||NPCIL||Tamil Nadu||VVER-1000||1000 × 2||2,000|
|Chennai (Kalpakkam)||NPCIL||Tamil Nadu||IPHWR-220||220 × 2||440|
|Narora||NPCIL||Uttar Pradesh||IPHWR-220||220 × 2||440|
|100 × 1
200 x 1
220 × 4
|160 x 2
540 × 2
Source: National Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), Government of India
|Nuclear power plants and reactors under construction in India|
|Power station||Operator||State||Type||Units||Total capacity
|Expected Commercial Operation|
|Chennai (Kalpakkam)||Bhavini||Tamil Nadu||PFBR||500 × 1||500||2022|
|Kakrapar Unit 4||NPCIL||Gujarat||IPHWR-700||700 × 1||700||2022|
|Gorakhpur||NPCIL||Haryana||IPHWR-700||700 × 2||1,400||2025|
|Rajasthan Unit 7 and 8||NPCIL||Rajasthan||IPHWR-700||700 × 2||1,400||2022|
|Kudankulam Unit 3, 4, 5 & 6||NPCIL||Tamil Nadu||VVER-1000||1000 × 4||4,000||2025-2027|
Source: “Proposals for New Atomic Power Plant” (Press release), Press Information Bureau, Department of Atomic Energy, January 03, 2019.
India’s waste management activities for both radioactive and chemical wastes generated from nuclear power plants (NPPs) and other nuclear fuel cycle facilities have been placed under the purview of a government regulatory body. Utmost priority is given to waste minimization, and volume reduction in the choice of processes and technologies adopted in radioactive waste management plants.
India has adopted a closed fuel cycle option, which involves reprocessing and recycling of spent fuel. During reprocessing, only about 2-3% of the spent fuel becomes waste and the rest is recycled. At the end the high level waste will be emplaced in geological disposal facilities (https://www.aerb.gov.in/english/regulatory-facilities/radioactive-waste-management). Nuclear Power Plans (NPPs) are supposed to submit “return of waste disposed” to an Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB). The Board reviews whether the wastes disposed by NPPs are within the limits specified in technical specification during regulatory inspections.
Despite India’s good nuclear safety records with all national precautions and international protocols in place, risks related to nuclear power generation prompted Indian legislators to enact the 2010 Nuclear Liability Act which stipulates that nuclear suppliers, contractors, and operators must bear financial responsibility in case of an accident (https://dae.gov.in/writereaddata/CLND_FAQ_v2_2020.pdf). The legislation addresses key issues such as nuclear radiation and safety regulations, operational control and maintenance management of nuclear power plants, compensation in the event of a radiation-leak accident, disaster clean-up costs, operator responsibility, and supplier liability.
The Indian nuclear power industry is expected to undergo a significant expansion in the coming years, in part due to the passing of the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement (https://2001-2009.state.gov/p/sca/c17361.htm). This agreement will allow India to carry out trade of nuclear fuel and technologies with other countries and significantly enhance its power generation capacity. India generated an additional 25 GW (versus actual 20 GW) of nuclear power by 2020, bringing total estimated nuclear power generation to 45 GW. And nuclear power is likely to accelerate as a part of India’s overall energy basket reaching up to 10% from current 1.8% for India’s industrial development and economic growth, going forward.