Nuclear the fuel for energetic Indian growth

22 February 2012

India's commitment to nuclear energy remains strong as the country looks ahead to decades of sustained growth, New Delhi conference delegates have been told by leaders of the country's program.

The opening of the India International Nuclear Symposium heard from the Indian Minister for Power, Sushil Kumar Shinde, as well as the head of the Department of Atomic Energy Srikumar Banerjee and two of his predecessors: Anil Kakodkar and Rajagopala Chidambaram. The line-up was completed by SK Jain, head of Nuclear Power Corporation of India.

Shinde emphasised that India continues to harness all available forms of energy to sustain its development goals and meet steady increase in demand. Among those sources, said Shinde, "Nuclear has several distinct advantages, including that it is compact and highly manageable in terms of transportation and fuel. It is greener than all other forms of power generation."

Long-term goals

Shinde's task is to bring India's power system to the level required for its huge population to enjoy the benefits of electricity. Currently some 40% of the country's 1.2 billion citizens have no access to electricity, and 40% of those who are serviced enjoy it for only a few hours each day. A significant portion of generated power is lost through an inefficient and leaky transmission network.

At present the average Indian's electricity use is just 750 kWh per year, compared to global average of 2752 kWh per year. Banerjee and Kakodkar agreed that in the long term the target for India should be around 5000 kWh per year, drawing strong correlations between female literacy and the human development index with that level of energy use.

"We're not talking only about the next 20, 30 or 40 years, but what about beyond? Imported coal costs much more than nuclear energy. Without nuclear energy, the economic growth of the country will be slowed down."

Srikumar Banerjee
Chair, Department of Atomic Energy

Banerjee presented a scenario where a stablised population of 1.6-1.7 billion had individual power consumption of 5000 kWh per year in 2050. That amounts to 8000 billion kWh per year - equivalent to 40% of today's current electricity production. Maximum use of renewables including hydro would support about 1050 billion kWh of that, he said, leaving the rest to be met by nuclear or fossil sources. Banerjee's calculations showed that, in the worst-case, use of coal to fill the gap would result in about 7.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year, compared to the current global total of 30 billion tonnes.

"We're not talking only about the next 20, 30 or 40 years, but what about beyond?" asked Banerjee, "Imported coal costs much more than nuclear energy. Without nuclear energy, the economic growth of the country will be slowed down."

These huge figures for energy and population give an insight into the task of governing a country such as India with one of the largest populations and one of the longest journeys ahead of it to energy prosperity. The government's goal is to have some 63,000 MWe of installed nuclear generation capacity by 2032 with imported light-water reactors complimenting an indigenous three-stage fuel cycle that will eventually bring in thorium to compliment current uranium-fuelled units.

The conference was organised by the World Nuclear Association (WNA), which also supports World Nuclear News. Director General of the WNA, John Ritch, said "WNA's engagement here has a dual purpose: to foster greater involvement of the global industry in India's nuclear growth and to promote greater involvement by Indian enterprises in the world's nuclear growth."

Shinde then lauded joint venture deals made so far between Indian power equipment manufacturers and their American, European, and Japanese peers. He appealed to the assembled executives: "If anyone is interested in joint-venture for manufacturing of nuclear power machinery, we will welcome and we will assist you in any way you need."
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News