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Daily Current Affairs

5-March -2024- Top News of the Day

1. Supreme Court Challenges Parliamentary Privilege: Landmark Ruling Redefines Accountability for Lawmakers

Topic: GS2 – Polity – Parliament This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of understanding the nuances of the Constitution, including provisions related to parliamentary privileges as this ruling sheds light on Article 105(2) and Article 194(2) of the Constitution.
  • A significant ruling by a seven-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, has challenged the immunity traditionally granted to lawmakers facing bribery charges related to their parliamentary activities.
  • The case focused on the interpretation of Article 105(2) of the Constitution, which shields MPs from legal action for their speech and votes in Parliament, and Article 194(2), which extends similar protections to members of state assemblies.
More about the news: Interpretation of Parliamentary Privileges:
  • The Court traced the historical evolution of parliamentary privileges in India, emphasizing that these privileges are not absolute rights inherited from the UK’s House of Commons but have evolved from statutory to constitutional privileges.
  • It highlighted two key components: collective privileges exercised by the House and individual rights such as free speech, subject to a “necessity test” to determine their legitimacy.
  • The ruling underscored the importance of upholding probity in public life and condemned corruption within the legislature as detrimental to democratic ideals.
Corruption versus Conscience: Legal Analysis:
  • The Court addressed whether accepting bribes, even if lawmakers vote according to their conscience or party lines rather than the bribe-giver’s requests, constitutes graft.
  • Analyzing the Prevention of Corruption Act, the Court clarified that merely accepting a bribe constitutes an offense, regardless of subsequent actions.
  • It rejected the notion of creating a privileged class of public servants and emphasized the arbitrariness of such distinctions under Article 14 of the Constitution.
Parallel Jurisdictions: Court and Parliament:
  • Given Parliament’s authority to punish its members for contempt, including suspension or imprisonment, the Court deliberated on whether courts could intervene.
  • It affirmed that both the judiciary and Parliament can exercise jurisdiction concurrently over lawmakers’ actions, as the purposes of punishment by the House and criminal prosecution serve distinct objectives.
  • The ruling emphasized the necessity of holding elected representatives accountable through legal means while upholding parliamentary sovereignty.
  • In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court has redefined the scope of parliamentary privilege, asserting the judiciary’s role in scrutinizing lawmakers’ conduct.
  • By affirming the principle of accountability and rejecting immunity for corruption, the ruling reinforces democratic values and the rule of law, signaling a significant shift in India’s legal landscape.
What are the constitutional provisions related to parliamentary privileges?
According to the Constitution of India, Articles 105 and 122 outline the privileges of Parliament, while Articles 194 and 212 pertain to the privileges of state governments.
  • Article 105: There shall be freedom of speech in Parliament. No member of Parliament shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in Parliament or any committee thereof.
  • Article 122: The validity of any proceedings in Parliament shall not be called in question in court on the ground of any alleged irregularity of procedure.
  • Article 194: There shall be freedom of speech in the State Legislature. No member of the State Legislature shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in the State Legislature or any committee thereof.
  • Article 212: The validity of any proceedings in the State Legislature shall not be called in question in court on the ground of any alleged irregularity of procedure.
PYQ: The ‘Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and its Members’ as envisaged in Article 105 of the Constitution leave room for a large number of un-codified and un-enumerated privileges to continue. Assess the reasons for the absence of legal codification of the ‘parliamentary privileges’. How can this problem be addressed? (200 words/12.5m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2014)
Practice Question:  Discuss the implications of the recent Supreme Court ruling on parliamentary privilege and lawmakers’ immunity from prosecution, particularly in the context of democratic governance and the rule of law in India. (150 words/10 m)

2. Leopard Population Surges in India: Conservation Challenges and Imperatives Ahead

Topic: GS3 – Environment – Conservation This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of knowing facts about the status of leopard populations in India, highlighting the challenges they face due to habitat loss, poaching, and human-wildlife conflict.
  • The 2022 Status of Leopards survey reveals a significant surge in India’s leopard population, estimating it at 13,874 individuals, marking a remarkable 75% increase from the 2014 estimate.
  • However, a more realistic comparison incorporates the 2018 data, where the number of camera points nearly tripled, resulting in a more accurate estimate of 5,240 leopards in 2018 compared to 1,647 in 2014.
More about the news: Current Survey Findings:
  • The recent survey, employing cameras at 32,803 locations, reported an 8% increase over the 2018 estimate, indicating a modest growth rate of 4.4% in areas covered by both surveys.
  • While these figures suggest stability in leopard numbers, challenges persist, particularly concerning habitat fragmentation and human-wildlife conflict.
Protected Areas vs. Non-Protected Areas:
  • Approximately one-third of leopards are found within protected areas, such as national parks and sanctuaries, while the majority inhabit non-protected regions.
  • Protected areas constitute only 11% of the leopard’s range in India, emphasizing the significance of conservation efforts beyond these designated zones.
Tiger Reserves and Leopard Population:
  • Leopard populations in and around tiger reserves have witnessed a notable increase, with a 21% rise observed from 2018 to 2022.
  • In contrast, the number of leopards outside tiger reserves experienced a marginal decline, highlighting the varying fortunes of distinct leopard populations across different habitats.
Limitations of All-India Surveys:
  • The surveys are confined to tiger states, overlooking potential leopard habitats in regions such as Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, and arid areas of Rajasthan.
  • Nevertheless, the consistent trend underscores the impact of conflict and poaching on leopards inhabiting unprotected areas.
Historical Range and Current Threats:
  • Leopards once roamed across vast territories, covering a substantial portion of the Earth’s land surface.
  • In India, however, they have experienced a decline in range and population due to human-induced factors, including poaching, habitat loss, and human-wildlife conflict.
Threats to Leopard Survival:
  • Leopards face multifaceted threats, including poaching for traditional Chinese medicine and conflict with humans due to livestock predation.
  • Habitat fragmentation, exacerbated by infrastructure development and mining activities, poses additional challenges to their survival.
Conservation Imperatives:
  • Effective conservation measures must address the complex interplay between human-wildlife conflict, habitat preservation, and anti-poaching efforts.
  • Ensuring the long-term survival of leopards necessitates proactive conservation policies that safeguard their habitats and mitigate anthropogenic threats.
  • While the leopard’s adaptability has enabled its survival in diverse landscapes, concerted efforts are required to mitigate the threats posed by poaching, habitat loss, and human-wildlife conflict.
  • The conservation of this iconic species hinges on collaborative efforts aimed at preserving its habitats and fostering coexistence with human communities.
What are the Key Points Related to Leopards?
·      Scientific Name: Panthera pardus About:
  • The leopard is the smallest of the Big Cat family (of genus Panthera namely the Tiger, Lion (Panthera leo), Jaguar, Leopard, and Snow Leopard), and is known for its ability to adapt in a variety of habitats.
  • A nocturnal animal, feeds on smaller species of herbivores found in its range, such as the chital, hog deer and wild boar.
  • Melanism is a common occurrence in leopards, wherein the entire skin of the animal is black in colour, including its spots.
  • A melanistic leopard is often called a black panther and is mistakenly thought to be a different species.
  • It occurs in a wide range in sub-Saharan Africa, in small parts of Western and Central Asia, on the Indian subcontinent to Southeast and East Asia.
  • The Indian leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) is a leopard widely distributed on the Indian subcontinent.
  • Poaching for the illegal trade of skins and body parts.
  • Habitat loss and fragmentation
  • Human-Leopard conflict
Conservation Status:
  • IUCN Red List: Vulnerable
  • CITES: Appendix-I
  • Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule-I
PYQ: Consider the following: (2012) 1) Black-necked crane 2) Cheetah 3) Flying squirrel 4) Snow leopard Which of the above are naturally found in India? (a) 1, 2 and 3 only (b) 1, 3 and 4 only (c) 2 and 4 only (d) 1, 2, 3 and 4 Ans: (b)
Practice Question:  Discuss the challenges faced by leopard populations in India as highlighted in recent survey findings. Evaluate the effectiveness of current conservation policies and strategies in mitigating these threats and ensuring the long-term survival of leopards in India. (250 words/15 m)

3. Unveiling the Secrets of Star Dunes: Groundbreaking Study Reveals Formation Timeline and Internal Structure

Topic: GS1 – Geography
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of understanding the formation processes and characteristics of different types of dunes.
  • Star dunes, characterized by their pyramid-like shape and towering heights of up to 1,000 feet, stand as remarkable geological formations in desert landscapes.
  • These dunes, with arms stretching from a central peak, represent a fascinating aspect of desert morphology, captivating scientists and explorers alike.
More about the news: Study of a Star Dune in Eastern Morocco:
  • In a groundbreaking study, scientists presented the first comprehensive analysis of a star dune, focusing on one situated in eastern Morocco known as Lala Lallia, within the Sahara Desert.
  • Employing advanced techniques such as ground-penetrating radar and luminescence dating, researchers delved into the internal structure of the dune and determined its formation timeline.
Insights from the Study:
  • Through meticulous examination, researchers revealed that Lala Lallia took approximately 900 years to form, accumulating around 6,400 metric tonnes of sand annually as winds continuously transported sand grains across the desert.
  • These findings shed light on the intricate processes governing the formation of star dunes and provide valuable insights into their evolution over time.
Significance of Star Dunes:
  • Star dunes, constituting nearly 10% of the dunes in Earth’s deserts, stand as the tallest among various dune types, surpassing crescent-shaped barchan dunes and linear dunes.
  • Their unique characteristics, shaped by complex wind regimes and sand accumulation patterns, make them distinctive features of desert landscapes.
  • Furthermore, star dunes have been observed not only on Earth but also on celestial bodies such as Mars and Saturn’s moon Titan, underscoring their significance in planetary geomorphology.
Expert Inputs:
  • Experts highlighted the role of complex wind patterns and sand accumulation in the formation of star dunes.
  • These factors contribute to the formation of colossal dunes in regions where sand can be mobilized and reshaped by prevailing winds, creating the iconic star-shaped morphology observed in these geological wonders.
  • The study provides a comprehensive understanding of star dunes, offering valuable insights into their formation processes and contributing to our broader knowledge of desert geomorphology.
Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of the recent study on star dunes in desert landscapes and its implications for understanding desert geomorphology and planetary science. Analyze the methodologies employed in the study and their relevance in earth sciences. (250 words/15 m)

4. SC ends immunity for legislators taking bribes

Topic: GS2 – Indian Polity – Judiciary
The news holds significance for UPSC as it addresses a pivotal shift in legal interpretation regarding parliamentary immunity and corruption.
  • The Supreme Court’s seven-judge Bench overturns a 25-year-old ruling, declaring that parliamentary immunity won’t protect legislators accepting bribes, emphasizing the threat of corruption to Indian parliamentary democracy.
 Additional information on this news:
  • A seven-judge Supreme Court Bench overrules a 25-year-old judgement in the JMM bribery case, stating parliamentary privilege won’t shield legislators taking bribes.
  • Chief Justice Chandrachud’s unanimous verdict emphasizes that privileges and immunities do not exempt lawmakers from general laws.
  • The court asserts that corruption by elected members threatens Indian parliamentary democracy’s foundation.
  • The 1998 JMM bribery case majority view, providing immunity if lawmakers vote or speak after accepting bribes, is deemed erroneous by the new Bench.
  • The offence of bribery is declared complete upon accepting the money, and criminal prosecution is warranted irrespective of subsequent actions in the legislative house.
  • Dismissing fears of abuse, the court argues that parliamentary immunity won’t shield bribed lawmakers, as it conflicts with the aspirational and deliberative ideals of the Constitution.
  • Chief Justice Chandrachud clarifies that the freedom of speech and expression, along with parliamentary immunities, does not extend to accepting bribes.
  • The court establishes a twofold test for parliamentary privilege, emphasizing actions enhancing the dignity of the House and members collectively and the exercise of rights to free speech, protest, and freedom from arrest.
  • A claim for immunity would fail if it doesn’t meet this two-fold test, preventing lawmakers from being above the law.
  • The judgment asserts that criminal courts and legislative houses have parallel jurisdiction over bribery allegations, with one not negating the authority of the other.
  • The reference case involves JMM leader Sita Soren accused of taking a bribe to vote in the 2012 Rajya Sabha elections, highlighting practical implications of the ruling.
Significance of this Supreme Court judgement
  • Increased Accountability: Legislators can now be prosecuted for taking bribes, leading to a potential decrease in corruption.
  • Fairer Lawmaking: Bribery undermines free votes and fair representation. This ruling promotes a more ethical legislative process.
  • Strengthens Public Trust: Holding lawmakers accountable can rebuild public trust in government institutions.
  • Sets Precedent: This judgement can inspire similar reforms to combat corruption in other areas.
  • Uncertainties Remain:  The long-term impact on prosecuting past cases and navigating the line between free speech and bribery requires further observation.
Practice Question:  Critically examine the significance of the recent Supreme Court judgement ending immunity for legislators taking bribes, highlighting its potential impact on Indian democracy. (150 words/10 m)

5. GI recognition for Narasapur crochet lace craft revives hopes of struggling artisans

Topic: GS1 – Indian Culture – Art Forms The Narasapur crochet lace craft receiving the Geographical Indications tag showcases cultural preservation, economic revival, and craft sustainability for UPSC aspirants.
  • The Narasapur crochet lace craft in Andhra Pradesh receives Geographical Indications (GI) tag, offering hope to 15,000 artisans for revival amid market challenges and the impact of COVID-19.
 Additional information on this news:
  • The Narasapur crochet lace craft in the Godavari region of Andhra Pradesh has been granted the Geographical Indications (GI) tag by the Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).
  • The GI tag certifies that the craft is geographically limited to 19 mandals in West Godavari and Dr. B.R.Ambedkar Konaseema districts in the Godavari region.
  • Narsapur and Palacole serve as major trade points for lace products in West Godavari, while Razole and Amalapuram are known for the craft in the Konaseema region.
  • Three categories of lace products, including garments, home furnishings, and accessories, are produced by nearly 15,000 women directly involved in the craft.
  • The West Godavari District Alankriti Lace Manufacturing Mahila Mutual Aided Co-operative Societies’ Federation Limited, All India Crochet Lace Exporters Association, and Andhra Pradesh Handicrafts Development Corporation Limited jointly applied for the GI tag.
  • The craft faced challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a paralyzed market with a lack of new orders.
  • The GI tag is expected to revive the craft and boost foreign trade, offering hope to the artisans, especially considering the dominance of China’s machine-made lace products in the market.
The Narasapur Crochet Lace Craft
  • Origin:  Narasapur crochet lace craft, practiced in the Godavari region of Andhra Pradesh, is believed to have originated around 150 years ago among the farming community’s women.
  • History: The craft has deep roots, dating back to the British colonial period when it gained prominence as an essential cottage industry.
  • Technique: Skilled artisans employ a fine hook and thread to create delicate lace patterns, often inspired by nature and traditional motifs.
  • Materials: High-quality cotton or silk threads are commonly used, ensuring durability and a fine finish.
  • Products: Narasapur crochet lace is utilized in crafting a variety of items, including clothing embellishments, home decor, and religious articles.
  • Economic Significance: The craft plays a vital role in the local economy, providing livelihoods for numerous women artisans and supporting the town’s cultural heritage.
  • Recognition: Narasapur crochet lace has earned Geographical Indication (GI) status, highlighting its unique identity and protecting it from imitation.
  • Challenges: Despite its rich heritage, the craft faces challenges such as market competition and the need for modernization to attract younger artisans.
PYQ: Which of the following has/have been accorded ‘Geographical Indication’ status? (2015) 1.     Banaras Brocades and Sarees 2.     Rajasthani Daal-Bati-Churma 3.     Tirupathi Laddu Select the correct answer using the code given below: (a) 1 only (b) 2 and 3 only (c) 1 and 3 only (d) 1, 2 and 3 Ans: (c)

6. Allow MPs, MLAs to speak without fear of harassment in House, says SC

Topic: GS2 – Indian polity – Parliament
The UPSC may focus on the constitutional significance of legislative freedom of speech, impacting democratic principles and governance.
●       A Constitution Bench in India underscores the critical role of freedom of speech for legislators, stating it’s essential for democracy and overturning a 1998 judgment in the JMM bribery case.
Additional information on this news:
  • A Constitution Bench in India emphasized the importance of freedom of speech for elected legislators in Parliament and State legislatures.
  • The Bench, led by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, declared that the representative character of democratic institutions would be compromised if MPs and MLAs couldn’t express themselves without fear of harassment.
  • The judgment overturned a 1998 ruling related to the JMM bribery case.
  • The ability of legislators to discuss and debate freely on the floor of the House was deemed crucial for a deliberative democracy in a parliamentary system.
  • The court highlighted that the freedom of speech in parliamentary settings is a “necessary privilege” essential for the proper functioning of the legislative body.
  • The judgment clarified that parliamentary privilege and immunity would come into play if legislators faced threats of prosecution for their official actions or speeches made in the House to enhance the dignity and authority of the legislature.
  • The court also recognized the extension of freedom of speech to the act of voting, stating that the freedom of a Member of Parliament to cast a vote is protected by the freedom of speech in Parliament.
  • Overall, the judgment emphasized the constitutional protection of legislators’ freedom of speech and expression in the democratic process.
Protection of legislators’ freedom of speech and expression
Need for Protection:
  • Robust Democracy: Free speech allows legislators to debate ideas, even controversial ones, fostering a healthy exchange and stronger policies.
  • Accountability: Legislators can criticize the government and hold power to account without fear of silencing.
  • Public Discourse: Unrestricted speech allows legislators to share information and perspectives, informing citizens and promoting political participation.
  • Constituent Representation: Legislators can freely express the concerns and needs of their constituents.
  • Misuse of Speech: Balancing free speech with preventing hate speech, incitement to violence, or defamation requires clear guidelines and enforcement.
  • Chilling Effect: Fear of lawsuits or retribution can discourage legislators from speaking out, hindering open debate and accountability.
  • Overreach by Government: Vague laws or selective enforcement can be used to silence criticism and dissent.
  • Social Media Scrutiny: Online discourse requires navigating issues of anonymity, misinformation, and potential manipulation.
PYQ: Individual Parliamentarian’s role as the national lawmaker is on a decline, which in turn, has adversely impacted the quality of debates and their outcome. Discuss. (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2019)
Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of safeguarding legislators’ freedom of speech and expression in India for the sustenance of a healthy democratic framework. How does this protection contribute to accountability, transparency, and the overall democratic process. (150 words/10 m)

7. ‘3 degrees to year-long droughts in Himalayas’

Topic: GS3 – Environment – Environmental pollution and degradation
Critical for UPSC: Understanding climate risks, biodiversity loss, and the urgency to align policies with Paris Agreement for sustainable development.
  • The article discusses research by the University of East Anglia highlighting severe climate risks.
  • The climate risks include prolonged droughts and biodiversity loss, escalating with a 3-degree Celsius global warming, emphasizing the importance of adhering to Paris Agreement limits.
 Additional information on this news:
  • Research Findings: A study published in Climatic Change reveals that a 3-degree Celsius global warming scenario could lead to drought lasting over a year in 90% of the Himalayan region.
  • Paris Agreement Impact: Adhering to the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius could prevent 80% of the increased human exposure to heat stress in India, according to the research conducted by the University of East Anglia.
  • National Scale Risks: The study spans eight research papers focusing on India, Brazil, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Ghana. Risks such as drought, flooding, crop yield decline, and loss of biodiversity increase significantly with each additional degree of warming.
  • Pollination Impact: In India, pollination is reduced by half at 3-4 degrees Celsius, compared to a reduction by a quarter at 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • Agricultural Land Exposure: With 3 degrees of warming, over 50% of agricultural land in the studied countries is projected to face severe droughts lasting over a year over a 30-year period.
  • Sea-Level Rise and Economic Damages: Economic damages related to sea-level rise are expected to increase, but the rate is slower if warming is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • Insufficient Global Efforts: The researchers emphasize the need for more efforts to reduce global warming, as existing policies may lead to a 3-degree Celsius increase.
  • Natural Capital Risk: A new ‘natural capital risk register’ developed for the six countries highlights high natural capital risks at 1.5 degrees Celsius when considering the effects of higher human population.
  • Climate Policy Alignment: The study reinforces the importance of aligning climate policies with the Paris Agreement limits to mitigate widespread and escalating climate change risks, as mentioned by Prof. Rachel Warren, the lead author of the study.
  • Global Impact: While the focus is on six countries, the researchers note that similar climate change issues are projected for other nations.
PYQ: Discuss global warming and mention its effects on the global climate. Explain the control measures to bring down the level of greenhouse gases which cause global warming, in the light of the Kyoto Protocol, 1997. (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2022) (250 words/15m)
Practice Question:  How do escalating climate risks, particularly prolonged droughts and biodiversity loss, underscore the imperative for nations to align policies with the Paris Agreement? Discuss with examples. (150 words/10 m)

8. The status of India’s nuclear programme

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government policies
GS3 –  Science and Technology – Indigenization of technology
Critical for UPSC: Examines India’s nuclear milestones, challenges, and energy landscape, emphasizing technological advancements and policy implications.
  • The article discusses the core-loading milestone of India’s Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor, its role in the three-stage nuclear program, challenges, and the emergence of Small Modular Reactors.
 Overview of the PFBR Core-Loading Event:
  • Milestone Achievement: The core-loading event of the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) is hailed as a historic milestone in India’s nuclear power program, symbolizing the initiation of stage II.
  • Location: The event took place at the Madras Atomic Power Station in Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu, and was witnessed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 4.
Background on PFBR:
  • Fuel Production: The PFBR is a fast breeder reactor designed to produce more nuclear fuel, specifically plutonium-239 (Pu-239), than it consumes. This process is pivotal for India’s three-stage nuclear power program.
  • Three-Stage Program: India’s nuclear program involves Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) in stage I, PFBR in stage II, and reactors combining Pu-239 with thorium-232 (Th-232) in stage III, aiming for complete self-sufficiency in nuclear energy.
Reasons for PFBR Delays:
  • Historical Background: The PFBR project faced delays, cost overruns, and broken promises. The Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) at Kalpakkam, a precursor, was affected by sanctions post-India’s nuclear test.
  • Funding Issues: Originally costing ₹3,492 crore with a 2010 deadline, the PFBR experienced delays. By 2019, the cost had risen to ₹6,800 crore. The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) sought more funds and deadline extensions.
  • Audit Findings: A 2014 audit revealed procurement issues, with BHAVINI relying excessively on the Nuclear Power Corporation of India, Ltd., resulting in delays in obtaining components.
  • Technical Challenges: Technical difficulties, including those related to reactor coolant, further contributed to the delays in operationalizing the PFBR.
Operational Mechanism of PFBR:
  • Fuel Combination: In stage II, Pu-239 from PHWRs is combined with U-238 in the PFBR to produce energy, U-233, and more Pu-239.
  • Breeder Reactor Concept: The PFBR is a breeder reactor, producing more fissile material than it consumes, utilizing liquid sodium as a coolant in two circuits.
  • Heat Transfer: The liquid sodium transfers heat from the reactor to generators, producing electricity. Challenges were faced in achieving expected results, as documented in a 2020 paper.
Role of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs):
  • Potential Complication: Delays in PFBR raised concerns, and Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) emerged as an alternative. SMRs have a maximum capacity of 300 MW, require less land, and offer enhanced safety features.
  • Advantages of SMRs: SMRs can use low-enriched uranium and might facilitate quicker installation at reduced costs. Amendments to regulatory frameworks may be necessary for increased SMR contribution.
Value and Challenges of Stage II:
  • PFBR Capacity: The PFBR has a capacity of 500 MWe. Plans include building four more Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) of 600 MWe each, contributing to India’s nuclear power objectives.
  • Evolving Energy Landscape: Delays in PFBR coincide with the rise of renewable energy. Solar electricity costs have decreased significantly, posing a challenge to nuclear power’s economic viability.
  • Decarbonization Pressure: Despite challenges, there is renewed interest in nuclear power due to pressure on India to decarbonize, reduce fossil fuel imports, and support the renewable sector.
Challenges Ahead:
  • Handling FBRs: Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) pose handling challenges compared to other reactor designs.
  • Regulatory Concerns: The Atomic Energy Regulatory Body (AERB) faces criticism for its subordination to the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), prompting calls for an independent statutory atomic regulator.
  • Waste Management: The thorium fuel cycle, integral to stage II, produces radioactive isotopes complicating handling and storage, necessitating robust waste management strategies.
  • In summary, the PFBR’s core-loading event is a significant step in India’s nuclear program, but challenges persist, including delays, economic viability, and evolving energy landscapes.
  • The integration of SMRs and addressing regulatory and waste management concerns are pivotal for India’s sustainable nuclear energy future.
PYQ: Give an account of the growth and development of nuclear science and technology in India. What is the advantage of fast breeder reactor programme in India? (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2017)  
Practice Question:  How does India’s Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor contribute to its nuclear program, and what challenges and alternatives, such as Small Modular Reactors, are evident? Discuss. (150 words/10 m)

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