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How India’s Nuclear Power Output Doubled In 5 Years

Amit Bhandari,
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Nuclear energy seems to be one bright spot in the 10-year report card of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime.

 

Readers may recall the signing of the Indo-US nuclear agreement in 2008, which led to the Left Front pulling support to the Government and scenes in the Parliament. While the Left Front still considers this to be ‘worst moment for the country’ five years down the line and close to the end of UPA’s term, the deal doesn’t appear all that bad.

 

India’s nuclear power generation is up, and of late, India’s armed forces have access to American defence equipment as well (a separate story of course).

 

At the time of signing the Indo-US agreement, 11 of India’s 17 nuclear power reactors were operating below capacity with load factors ranging from 23-68%. The overall capacity utilisation for India’s nuclear power plants was an abysmal 50%.

 

So, how has the situation panned out since? Not too badly, it seems, looking at the numbers. From 50% in FY09, the plant load factor for India’s nuclear reactors increased to 80% in FY13, in line with global averages. From April to January 2014, the utilisation inched up a bit further to 82%. In practical terms, this means India added (or brought back) almost 60% additional nuclear power capacity without spending a rupee.

 

Effectively, power generation from nuclear energy more than doubled in the past five years. Meanwhile, the generation capacity, which stood at 4,120 MW in 2009, has increased by a more modest amount to 4,780 MW. Obviously, improved access to fuel has made the difference.

 

However, in terms of new capacity added the picture doesn’t look that good – capacity went up just 16% in five years. However, these numbers don’t include 1,000 MW capacity added in Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu. The reactor was commissioned in later 2013 and supply isn’t regular as of now. Another 4,300 MW capacity is under construction as well.

 

Table 1: New Nuclear Projects

 

 

Even then, these numbers are well behind the projections that were being made in 2009, just after the deal was inked. In 2009, it was projected that India will have over 7,000 MW nuclear power capacity by 2011. That hasn’t happened. So, is that a failure of the deal?

 

Possibly not. From 2009 to now, there have been some material changes in attitudes towards nuclear energy. The Fukushima disaster of 2011 has pushed nuclear energy almost completely out of reckoning. Starting a new nuclear power project is much more difficult than it used to be. Japan and Germany, two major economies that relied on nuclear power, have almost entirely sworn off nuclear power for now. In India, too, projects have been hit by delays.

 

The Kudankulam nuclear reactor was almost entirely ready, and then idled for several months on back of protests led by environmentalists and local communities.

 

Any large project that starts now can bank on similar opposition right from inception. A case in the point is the Jaitapur Power Plant, which will have 2 reactors of 1,650 MW each, which is being built with French assistance. The project is already facing serious opposition, and likelihood of delays is high.

 

  1. Sanjit Oberai Reply

    March 4, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    an interesting article

  2. Algore Reply

    March 4, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    Nuclear power is full of medical dangers for the people. The voices of ordinary citizens must be heard by all who carry their community’s responsibilities with integrity. The India do not need nuclear energy as a source of power, every effort should be made to promote non-nuclear, low energy sources of power.Protests against nuclear power in the UK , India , Japan and Germany – and many other countries – show the scale of global public opinion against this dangerous and expensive form of energy. The mass non-violent protests in Kudankulam in India and the repeated demonstrations at Hinkley Point in the UK are powerful expressions of the widespread rejection of nuclear power that governments around the world would do well to heed. Rather than pumping subsidies into nuclear energy, the governments should be seriously investing in a sustainable energy policy based on renewable sources. If the lessons of Chernobyl and Fukushima are not learned, then governments are inviting further disasters.

    • Tom Reply

      March 4, 2014 at 11:17 pm

      according to the numbers nuclear has been the safest and cheapest form of energy on record

  3. tipu Reply

    March 5, 2014 at 4:49 am

    Nuclear technology is a good thing but there is a dangerous of terrorist and Hindu extremist attack on Indian nuclear plants. As Some years back The us administration has sanctioned several Indian entities for transferring technologies and know-how to Iraq and Iran that could contribute to chemical or biological weapons programs. Independent analysts also allege that India’s procurement system for its own nuclear programs could leak or reveal nuclear know-how to other states or non-state actors.

  4. Hell Boy Reply

    March 5, 2014 at 5:10 am

    Improvement in past ten years seems like reading some joke about AERB. The Russian-built Kudankulam plant is the country’s largest nuclear power project and is designed to help meet a surging demand for electricity. Plans were first drawn up in 1988 and it was supposed to have gone into operation in 2011. Two of the reactors are now in place but they have come on line amid large-scale protests by locals about the threat of radiation. Tamil Nadu has been suffering from unprecedented power cuts, despite which there have been protests against the Kudankulam nuclear power plant.

  5. Zeenia Reply

    March 5, 2014 at 5:49 am

    India’s nuclear ambitions can have positive impacts for the development of country but its giving the signal to the other regional states like its allegedly involving itself in to an arms race. And construction of these power plants is merely to fulfill its hunger for military buildup. India is having loopholes in the safety and security mechanisms. There have been many safety accidents which are reported. Kudankulam plants still having technical problems which are becoming a hurdle in the way of formal operation of the plant. People are protesting against the operation of power plant. Government must go listening the plea of people first and consider their concerns which are very much genuine.

  6. peace lover Reply

    March 5, 2014 at 6:05 am

    Indian nuclear derive without proper emergency plans, and inadequate measures is just like a blind drive. Installations of mega nuclear power plants in most vulnerable and sensitive areas show the incompetency of governmental institutions. Environmental assessment shows that power plants are highly vulnerable towards natural accidents. In future these power plants can be hit by Tsunami like accidents.

  7. Mania Reply

    March 5, 2014 at 7:49 am

    This is good that we are having
    leaps and bounds in nuclear development of the country. Do we celebrate this or
    anxious about our lives at present and future. For me, it looks like that
    territory of India has really become much filled with the nuclear pots all
    over. We also have to devise the mechanism of nuclear waste also in order to
    lower the chances of radioactive materials. There is hunger, poverty and social
    ailments all over; along with this handling nuclear sensitive technology is
    really a question of security. The common people live with nuclear and there is
    a direct risk to their live hood in every moment.

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