- With the Indian economy expanding quickly, it is anticipated that it will surpass Germany and Japan and climb from position five to position three before the end of this decade.
- As a result of this economic expansion, it is anticipated that the demand for energy will largely increase in our nation as it already ranks the third-highest when it comes to the consumption of primary energy, the majority of which is powered by fossil fuels.
- This article will discuss why transitioning to nuclear energy is important in meeting the net zero targets and the steps that could be taken in this direction.
Why is India looking at nuclear power?
- Climate Goals: India wants to move towards carbon neutrality by 2070 by generating 500 gigawatts from non-fossil sources by 2030. Nuclear energy can help us achieve this goal.
- Emission-Free Power: Nuclear power plants don’t use fossil fuels; hence, they are emission-free. They produce energy by heating water, which is emission-free and environmentally friendly.
- Comparative Shortage:India primarily relies on coal, with nuclear energy providing only 1.6% of the nation’s power, despite developing renewable sources, including wind, solar, and hydro. As a result, nuclear energy has the potential to create and contribute to a decrease in the reliance on coal.
What should be the national strategy for the rapid scale-up of Nuclear Energy?
- The primary powerhouse for baseload electricity capacity expansion should be the indigenous 700 MWe PHWR (Pressurized Heavy Water reactor), the first unit of which is already in commercial operation. In fleet mode, fifteen further similar units are already under development. One ought to implement many such fleets using numerous PSUs in addition to NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corporation of India).
- Build indigenous SMRs (Small Modular Reactors) on a significant number of the sites that would be vacated by retiring coal plants in the ensuing decades. Importing big units would make energy production costly, as evidenced by the experience with huge PWRs. Due to its ownership of the majority of the nation’s coal facilities, NTPC (National Thermal Power Corporation) is an obvious collaborator in this process. There may be further industrial partners.
- Energy-intensive sectors like metals, chemicals, and fertilizers can be supplied with well-proven 220 MWe PHWR units as partially owned captive units for electricity and hydrogen. Following a prototype presentation, BARC’s AHWR300-LEU (Advanced Heavy Water Reactor) can likewise be made available for this role.
- In order to produce hydrogen directly rather than through electrolysis, a high-temperature reactor must be developed. Cheaper green hydrogen production would be made possible as a result, and pressure on the nation’s energy infrastructure to electrify itself too much would be lessened. The necessary capacity is present at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.
- To unlock the potential of thorium energy in accordance with the existing plans for a long-term sustainable energy supply, the development of second and third-stage nuclear power programs should be accelerated.
- The quick deployment of new nuclear energy capacity in emerging-economy nations, where one anticipates the greatest net rise in energy consumption, is necessary to credibly address the global climate change challenge. Our PHWRs are well suited for fulfilling these requirements and are competitive on a worldwide scale in terms of both performance and capital cost.
- Thorium HALEU (High Assay Low Enriched Uranium) fuel in PHWR can increase the economic, safety, waste management, and proliferation resistance of these reactors. India should take advantage of this opportunity by spearheading a significant international partnership for efforts to solve the issues posed by climate change.
- The above steps can definitely be implemented in a country with a vast and developing economy like India, as long as it is organized as a national initiative and supported by aggressive legislative measures that put nuclear energy on an equal footing with renewable energy sources.