Prospects of Nuclear Energy of India: India’s energy poverty still remains an uphill task to tackle. The challenge for India is to maintain a balance between the use of Nuclear Energy in the country’s development as well as the weaponisation of Nuclear Energy to counter the aggression of hostile neighbours. In this article, we will discuss every single detail of various Prospects of Nuclear Energy of India for the UPSC examination.
Before we jump into our discussion let’s talk about Julius Robert Oppenheimer.
After the deadliest atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Julius Robert Oppenheimer said this
—Julius Robert Oppenheimer
- Jawaharlal Nehru advocated the nuclear energy in 1948 to the General Assembly of India.
- The result was the establishment of the Atomic Energy Commission and genesis of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).
- Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) developed the first operational research reactor in 1956
- India’s first commercial reactor Tarapur Atomic Power Station, in 1969.
- India faced hindrances in nuclear development in India in 1968.This was due to India’s decision to not ratify the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
- Due to this barrier, India had to switch on domestic development for acquiring fuel, supplies and research an development.
- India’s nuclear program was envisaged to build a connection between India’s military nuclear weapons program and the commercial atomic energy program.
- India was dependent on international nuclear materials during 1970s and 1980s for its nuclear weapons tests. Canada had given India a CIRUS research reactor and a CANDU reactor which were delivered for peaceful purposes of electricity production, but instead, the reactors were utilized to produce weapons grade plutonium for nuclear weapons development. It was a violation of the treaty between India and Canada.
- As a consequence,the United State passed the Symington amendment in 1976 to put sanctions in economic and military assistance to India.Which was then followed up by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Act, which cut off nuclear materials and fuel to India.
- Later USA withdrew the said sanctions in 2001
- 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.
- India has been continuously focused to explore the possibility of tapping nuclear energy for the power generation. Homi Jegangir Bhabha pioneered three-stage nuclear power programme in the 1950s.
- Atomic Energy Act, 1962 was introduced with the set objectives of using two naturally occurring elements Uranium and Thorium having good potential to be utilized as nuclear fuel in Indian Nuclear Power Reactors.
What is Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)?
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was signed in 1968 and came into force in 1970.It was enacted to form a elite group of nuclear powered countries. NPT forces a country to permanently stop it’s present or future plans to build nuclear weapons.
- India has conducted its first nuclear test in Pokharan in 1974 with the codename of “Smiling Buddha“.
What is the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)?
The NSG was created just after India’s first nuclear test in 1974. The NSG officially came into force in November 1975 in London, thus popularly known as the “London Club”. It’s a group of nuclear supplier countries that asks to involve in the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. NSG consists of 48 members, including the five nuclear weapon states US, UK, France, China, and Russia.
What will India achieve as a member of NSG?
- India will be able to develop its own resources for each stage of the nuclear fuel power generation, including next generation reactors such as fast breeder reactors and thorium breeder reactors etc.
- Membership of the NSG will ensure India a legal foundation for India’s nuclear regime and thus will pave a way to expand investment in nuclear energy across the country.
- Membership of NSG will strengthen India to keep its voluntary pledge under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for increasing production of clean energy through Nuclear power.
- Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) intends to ban all nuclear explosions – everywhere, by everyone. It opened for signature on 24 September 1996 and since then 182 countries have signed the Treaty. India did not sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)
What is Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)?
The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is the treaty that restricts all nuclear tests everywhere, by everyone. The Treaty was first negotiated at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 24 September 1996. CTBT is aimed to curb the development of new nuclear weapons and also improvement of existing nuclear weapon designs. When a country accepts the Treaty,it gets a legal binding against nuclear testing
Why did India reject CTBT?
- India’s scientific strategist thinks that if CTBT is accepted,it would hinder India’s strategic nuclear program development
- As far as security is concerned, India will pass through uncertain dangers from Pakistan, and China, which had conducted nuclear tests even while the CTBT was being negotiated.
- Five nuclear tests were conducted as a part of the series of Pokhran-II in May 1998. These tests were performed under Operation Shakti–98.
- In 2003, India has adopted its Nuclear Doctrine of ‘No First Use‘ i.e. India will use nuclear weapons only in retaliation against a nuclear attack on its territory.
What is the Nuclear Doctrine of ‘No First Use’?
A policy of No First Use (NFU) of nuclear weapons has special significance in India’s doctrine and diplomacy.It is a pledge that says India will not initiate a nuclear attack but with a significant caveat.It also cites that nuclear weapons could be used if Indian forces are attacked with biological or chemical weapons.
What is Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)?
Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is informal multilateral export control regime to limit the proliferation of missiles and missile technology. MTCR does not impose any legal obligations on member countries. The regime was formed in 1987 by the G-7 industrialized countries i.e Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the United States.
- The membership of MTCR helps India to buy high-end missile technology, strengthen its export control regime and it supports India’s bid to become a member of the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG).
Why is China blocking India’s membership into NSG?
Whenever India pushes for NSG’s membership, China blocks. China blocks India citing that India has rejected to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which is considered a prerequisite for its membership to the NSG. It should be noted that except China, all P5 members have advocated India’s membership of NSG based on India’s non-proliferation record.
What is Wassenaar Agreement?
Wassenaar Agreement was established in 1996. Wassenaar Agreement is a group of countries that take a pledge to controls arms export. It was formed to bring security and stability, by fostering transparent practices in the process of sale and transfer of arms and materials and technologies that can be used to make nuclear weapons. The group contains 42 countries. India joined the group on December 8, 2017. All permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and China are signatories of this arrangement.
Timeline of Events
- Atomic Energy Act, 1962 in India
- Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was signed in 1968
- India has conducted its first nuclear test in Pokharan in 1974
- Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in 1975
- Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) was formed in 1987
- Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996
- Wassenaar Agreement in 1996
- Five nuclear tests were conducted as a part of the series of Pokhran-II in 1998 under the Operation Shakti–98.
- India adopted its Nuclear Doctrine in 2003
- Supply of radioisotopes: Radioisotopes are used in household as smoke detectors.
- Plant mutation breeding: It is a process of exposing the seeds to radiation to enhance production rate and curtail the time of production.
- Fertilizers in Agriculture: Isotope fertilizers like nitrogen-15, are expensive and may damage the environment if proper precautions are not taken.
- Insect control:Radiation is used to control insect populations by the process of the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT)
- Food irradiation: It is a process of exposing food materials to gamma rays to kill bacteria that can cause food-borne disease.
- Carbon dating: Naturally-occurring radioisotopes are used in determining the age of rocks.
- Medicine and Diagnosis:Diagnostic techniques in nuclear medicine use radio pharmaceuticals.
- Nuclear-powered submarines
- Nuclear reactors in space technology: Radioisotope thermal generators (RTGs) are widely used in various space missions.
- Environmental tracers: Radioisotopes could be used in detecting and analyzing the presence and effects pollutants
Since the discovery of nuclear energy by USA, many countries were actively involved to acquire the nuclear technology to show dominance in global geo-political field.
Here is the time line of invention of Nuclear Technology by different countries
- U.S. conducted the Castle Bravo test with hydrogen bomb on Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954,
- Soviet Union tested its first nuclear bomb on 29 August 1949 in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan.Code name was “First Lightning”
- The United Kingdom became the third nation to acquire nuclear technology when it detonated an atomic bomb in Operation Hurricane.
- France acquired nuclear weapons on February 13, 1960. A atomic bomb was tested in Algeria.
- The People’s Republic of China became the fifth nuclear power in the world on October 16, 1964.
The consecutive success of several countries had put pressure on India as well. As India always wanted to play a significant role in world Geo-politics.
But India could not immediately put enough focus on developing nuclear technology just after the Independence, as India was immersed in deep poverty and illiteracy. India’s primary focus was development at that time.However Homi Jegangir Bhabha the ‘Father of the Indian nuclear programme’ pioneered and helped India to show it’s supremacy in the world.
The present scenario is changed.Now India is focused in development through Nuclear energy.Today the importance of Nuclear Energy is in different dimension as there are ever rising concerns for the ecosystem which eventually intensified the use sustainable energy through nuclear technology.
Nuclear power must be used in full potential to meet rising electricity demand in the country. Rising fossil fuel prices, increasing pollution problems are pushing India to align for Nuclear technology in power generation.
- The nuclear energy is form of clean energy as it reduces the amount of energy generated from fossil fuels (coal and oil). Hence less use of fossil fuels also lowers less emissions greenhouse gases. Hence it will lead to cleaner and healthier environment in India.
- Nuclear fuel offers more energy production. Nuclear plants significantly save not only raw materials but also in transport, handling and extraction of nuclear fuel.
- A nuclear power plant can generate electricity with a consistency thus reducing the price volatility of other fuels such as petrol.Which is a primary concern among Indian consumers.
- Nuclear power plants need high level of sophistication and safety systems. Even a little negligence and poor maintenance may bring an unexpected event or a nuclear accident.Two vivid examples are Chernobyl and Fukushima.
- Difficulty in the management of nuclear waste as the nuclear wastes are hard to eliminate from its radioactivity and risks.
- The nuclear reactors need to be dismantled after their expiry date. Hence a country will be able to keep producing nuclear energy only if there are sufficient number of operating reactors. India need to build about 80 new nuclear reactors during the next ten years.
- Nuclear plants has very high initial and operating costs.
- Nuclear power plants are always primary objectives of terrorist organizations. Hence these are always under strict surveillance and security.
- Current nuclear reactors work by the principle of nuclear fission chain reactions. These chain reactions could be causing a very destruction radioactive explosion in case of control systems failure.
- The use of Nuclear technology in military industry could erase the entire human race. We witnessed the heart melting consequences of the nuclear power during World War II. So far this was the only known nuclear military attack in the history.Later, many countries joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but there remains a high probability of use of nuclear power in ongoing tensions across the globe.
The Future of Nuclear Energy in India is entrapped within the issues related to the pre-project activities like land acquisition at new sites, clearances from environment ministry and finding proper and timely foreign investors.If the government do not address issues like these,India will never be able to attract suitable investors.
However the Indian government is eyeing to increase nuclear power generation capacity by over three times in coming 10 years. The current nuclear capacity of India is 6,780 MW which is proposed to be increased to 22,480 MW by 2031.
- Three mines in Jharkhand, Narwapahar, Turamdih and Banduhurang mines have been given in-principle approval to augment production capacity.
- 12 more nuclear power reactors have been given administrative approval and financial sanction for installation.Thus, 21 nuclear power reactors, with an installed capacity of 15,700 MW, are under implementation which is expected to be completed by the year 2031.
- 10 new Uranium projects were given in-principle approval from the Atomic Energy Commission.
Nuclear Power Plant in India map
Here are some key points India should focus on
- India needs to support innovation in nuclear energy and invest in the development of it’s infrastructure. Most of the nuclear reactors in India are pale in comparison (in terms of technological advancement and safety from a potential reactor meltdown) with nuclear reactors in other countries like China, The Russian Federation and the USA.
- India need to constantly innovate the infrastructure of nuclear energy.
- India should focus in developing reactors of latest technology such as a molten-salt reactor, that utilizes thorium (such reactors have greater energy efficiency, hence producing less radioactive waste and thorium is way more abundant that in Earth’s crust than the traditionally used Uranium)
- India need latest technological advancement to boost modular nuclear reactor projects, especially in the creation of nuclear reactors that are liquid based (which has the potential to increase the efficiency of the system), as well as investing in nuclear reactors which utilize solid fuel rods that operate in near atmospheric pressure and won’t cause a nuclear meltdown.
- India also need to invest in the creation of nuclear power plants which would operate through the principle of ‘nuclear fusion‘, rather that the traditional ‘nuclear fission‘.
The relationship between energy consumption and human development is straight forward.Sustainable Development includes affordable, clean and reliable energy services to all.
As far as environment is concerned the Nuclear energy could be the all in one solution. In a nut shell it can phrased that Nuclear Energy and Sustainable Development is interconnected.Nevertheless it is completely political will and commitment of world leaders to give it a proper direction. World leaders should follow the translated idea of Homi J Bhabha, when he advocated the growth of the civilization through the increase in energy consumption and the development of new energy sources in the International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in Geneva in August 1955.
—Martin Luther King, Jr.
Also Read List of Thermal,Nuclear and Hydroelectric Power Plants in India