In 1934, an Italian scientist named Fermi and his colleagues bombarded uranium with slow moving neutrons and he realized that it produced much higher radioactivity than any other element treated the same way. Five years later Fermi discovered that the nucleus of uranium 235, if hit by a neutron, would split down the middle in two very similar fragments. This process was to be known as nuclear fission and it resulted in strong energy emission at the expense of the nucleus’ initial mass. The use of nuclear fission for civilian uses bases itself on the ability of controlling the chain reaction of such a process. In nuclear plants, the process of fission is tightly controlled through the use of special materials such as cadmium that are able to absorb neutrons and regulate the heat produced. India has a streamlined nuclear power program and expects to have 20,000 MWe nuclear capacities on line by 2020. It aims to supply 25% of electricity from nuclear power by 2050. Since India is outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty due to its weapons program, it had been largely excluded for 34 years from trade in nuclear plant or materials, which has hindered its development of civil nuclear energy until 2009. After the NSG approval the problems have been rectified. India’s vision is to become a world leader in nuclear technology due to its expertise in fast reactors and thorium fuel cycle.
Types of Reactors
- Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR)
- Boiling Water Reactors (BWR)
- Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR)
- Reaktor Bolshoy Moshchnosti Kanalniy (High Power Channel Reactor) (RBMK)
- Gas Cooled Reactor (GCR) and Advanced Gas Cooled Reactor (AGR)
- Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor (LMFBR)
- Aqueous Homogeneous Reactor (AHR)
Nuclear Power: The Present Status
Uranium reserves in India pertaining to categories RAR, EAR-I and EAR-II are estimated to be about 95,000 tonnes of metal. Speculative reserves are over and above this quantity and with further exploration, could become available for nuclear power programme. After accounting for various losses including mining (15%), milling (20%) and fabrication (5%), the net uranium available for power generation is about 61,000 tonnes. Thorium reserves are present in a much larger quantity. Total estimated reserves of monazite in India are about 8 million tonnes (containing about 0.63 million tonnes of thorium metal) occurring in beach and river sands in association with other heavy minerals. Out of nearly 100 deposits of the heavy minerals, at present only 17 deposits containing about ~4 million tonnes of monazite have been identified as exploitable. Mineable reserves are ~70% of identified exploitable resources. Therefore, about 2,25,000 tonnes of thorium metal is available for nuclear power programme.[iii]
The known reserves of uranium in the country can support about 10 GWe of installed electricity capacity based on PHWRs for a life-time of 40 years at 80% capacity factor.[iv]
India Nuclear Roadmap
Department of Atomic Energy is carrying out nuclear energy programme in India. The Indian Nuclear Power Programme has the following three stages.
The Indian Nuclear Power Programme has the following three stages.
1.First Stage: It is already commercial now, comprised setting up of PHWRs (pressurized heavy water reactors) and associated fuel cycle facilities. PHWRs use natural uranium as fuel and heavy water as moderator and coolant. The design, construction, and the operation of these reactors are undertaken by public sector undertaking the NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited). The company operates 16 reactors (2 Boiling Water Reactors and 14 PHWRs) with a total capacity of 3900 MWe.
2.Second Stage: It was envisaged to set FBRs (Fast Breeder Reactors) along with Reprocessing plants and plutonium-based fuel fabrication plants. Plutonium is produced by irradiation of Uranium-238. The Fast Breeder Programme is in the technology demonstration stage. Under this stage, the IGCAR (Indira Gandhi Center for Atomic Research) has completed design of a 500 MWe PFBR (prototype fast breeder reactor) being implemented by BHAVINI (Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam).
3.Third Stage: The Indian Nuclear Power Programme is based on the thorium-uranium-233 cycle.Uranium-233 is obtained by irradiation of thorium. Presently this stage is in technology development phase. The ongoing development of 300 MWe AHWR (advanced heavy water reactor) at BARC (Bhabha Atomic Research Centre) concerns thorium utilization and its demonstration.
Nuclear Energy: Consumption,
terawatt-hours, as of end of 2004
Current Installed Capacity[v]
The installed capacity as of 2009 is 4120 Mwe.[vi]
Economics of Nuclear Power
India's operating nuclear power reactors: (As of Jan 2009)
|Reactor||State||Type||MWe||Commercial operation||Safeguards status|
|Tarapur 1 & 2||Maharashtra||BWR||150||1969||Item-specific|
|Kaiga 1 & 2||Karnataka||PHWR||202||1999-2000|
|Kakrapar 1 & 2 (MAPS)||Gujarat||PHWR||202||1993-95||By 2012 under new agreement|
|Kalpakkam 1 & 2||Tamil Nadu||PHWR||202||1984-86|
|Narora 1 & 2||Uttar Pradesh||PHWR||202||1991-92||By 2014 under new agreement|
|Rawatbhata 3 & 4||Rajasthan||PHWR||202||1999-2000||By 2010 under new agreement|
|Tarapur 3 & 4||Maharashtra||PHWR||490||2006, 05|
|Total (17)||3779 MWe|
Rawatbhata also known as Rajastan/RAPS
Kalpakkam also known as Madras/MAPS
Kakrapar = KAPS, Narora = NAPS
Dates are for start of commercial operation.
Projects Under Construction[vii]
|Project||Capacity (MWe)||Expected Commercial Operation|
|Kudankulam Atomic Power Project||2 x 1000||Unit 1 – Dec-2009
Unit 2 – Sep-2010
|Rajasthan Atomic Power Project||2 x 220||Unit 5 – Sep-2009
* Link to Fuel Availability
Unit 6 – Dec-2009
* Link to Fuel Availability
|Kaiga Atomic Power Project||1 x 220||Unit 4 – Dec-2009
* Link to Fuel Availability
- High initial construction costs
- High operating and maintenance costs
- Mining and purifying uranium is not a very clean process
- Improperly functioning nuclear plants can lead to devastating disasters (eg. meltdowns)
- Spent fuel from nuclear power plants is toxic for centuries and there is no safe/permanent storage area for it
Nuclear energy companies
Expecting the nuclear deal with US to go through, India's largest defence electronic company Bharat Electronic Ltd (BEL) is looking at tapping the lucrative business potential in the atomic energy sector. explained.
Global nuclear power companies are moving in fast into India. Large power majors with a strong presence in nuclear energy such as General Electric, Westinghouse and Areva are in negotiations with Larsen & Toubro (L&T) for a possible joint venture in nuclear power equipment and nuclear power generation.
Nuclear Power Research Centers
IGCAR was established in the year 1971, under the Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India. The centre is engaged in broad based multidisciplinary programme of scientific research and advanced engineering directed towards the development of “Fast Breeder Reactor technology”. Fast Breeder Test Reactor is based on unique mixed Plutonium Uranium Carbide fuel, first of its kind in the world and KAMINI Reactor, the only operating reactor in the world using U233 fuel are successfully operated. The design of 500 MWe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor is completed and the construction is in progress.
BARC provides a broad spectrum of scientific and technological activities extending from basic laboratory bench scale research to scale up plant level operations and its functional domain covers all walks of science and technology – stretching from classical school of thoughts to the emerging novel fields of interest. The core mandate of this institution is to provide research and development support required to sustain one of the major peaceful applications of nuclear energy viz. power generation. This includes conceptualization of the programme, finalisation of the design of the reactor and the peripheral components, preparation of computer generated working models and their evaluation studies under simulated reactor running conditions, identification, selection and testing of materials and components for their risk analysis under extreme conditions of reactor operating environments, development and testing of new reactor fuel materials etc.
The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research is an autonomous institute under the umbrella of the Department of Atomic Energy of the Government of India. TIFR does basic research in physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics and computer science. They have campuses in Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore and research facilities in various other places in India.
Nuclear Power Corporation Of India Limited.
16th Floor, Centre - I, World Trade Centre,
Cuffe Parade, Colaba, Mumbai - 400 005, India.
Telephone +91-22-22182171 / 22182177
[ii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_reactors (Current technologies)
[iii] http://www.dae.gov.in/publ/doc10/pg30.htm (3.5 Nuclear Energy)