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Indian Express

12-October-2023

1) Scaling up of Nuclear Energy

Context:

  • 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.

Way Forward:

  • 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.

2) Message from Moody’s: Government must handhold semi-conductor industry

Context:

  • A report by the international rating agency Moody’s has highlighted that climate change may cause considerable financial losses, supply chain disruptions, and damage to the manufacturing infrastructure of the semiconductor industry.
  • The report issues a warning that the hazards associated with global warming could discourage investment in the sector and prevent India from realizing its goal of becoming a hub for chip manufacturing.
  • This article will discuss the challenges and also the steps that could be taken.

What are semi-conductors?

  • Semiconductors are a group of substances with special electrical characteristics that give them a conductivity between insulators and conductors.
  • They play a critical part in modern technology and are a necessary component in the production of many different electrical products.

The significance of domestic semiconductor manufacturing for India:

  • Economic Growth: By producing semiconductors at home, India may lessen its reliance on imports, conserve foreign currency, and promote economic expansion by creating income and job possibilities.
  • Technological Development: India’s skills in cutting-edge technology, research, and development are improved through domestic semiconductor production. It promotes innovation and supports the expansion of other technology-driven industries, such as sophisticated electronics, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT). This, in turn may increase India’s technological competitiveness on a worldwide scale.
  • Self-Reliance and Security: Building a self-sufficient semiconductor ecosystem ensures the continuity of key businesses and provides protection against global disruptions. Given the crucial role semiconductors play in the infrastructure of communication and defence, it also improves India’s national security.
  • Investment Attraction: Both domestic and foreign investments are attracted by a robust environment for semiconductor manufacturing. This results in the construction of semiconductor manufacturing facilities, research facilities, and partnerships with major international technology firms.
  • Fostering Innovation: Local innovation and entrepreneurship are supported by a strong semiconductor industry. It gives companies and research organizations the chance to create cutting-edge semiconductor technology and solutions, establishing India as a hub for global innovation.
  • Digital Sovereignty: Having access to domestic semiconductor manufacturing capabilities is essential for digital sovereignty in a world that is becoming more digitally connected and driven. India is less dependent on foreign technology suppliers as a result of being able to manage its vital technological infrastructure and data security.

What are the government initiatives for making India a semiconductor manufacturing hub?

  • The Semicon India program, with a total investment of INR 76,000 crore, has been approved by the government for the growth of the nation’s semiconductor and display manufacturing ecosystem.
  • The program has also been changed as a result of two factors:
    • the aggressive incentives provided by nations that have already built an ecosystem for semiconductors; and
    • the small number of businesses that own cutting-edge technologies.
  • The revamped program intends to offer financial assistance to businesses investing in the semiconductor, display, and design ecosystem industries.
  • This will open the door for India’s expanding participation in the global value chains for electronics.

Steps that could be taken after considering Moody’s reports:

  • In line with IPCC estimates, Moody’s warns that by 2050, costs associated with sea level rise, water stress, and flooding might drastically increase.
  • India’s semiconductor industry benefits from being concentrated in new developments without the burdensome legacy of poorly designed drainage systems.
  • These townships, which are part of the government’s Smart City Program, should figure out how to avoid interruption during really heavy rainfall occurrences.
  • Dholera in Ahmedabad has been promoted by the government as a centre for chip manufacturing.
  • It should raise awareness of the region’s heat-related stressors, which by all accounts are set to get worse due to climate change.
  • The government will need to support businesses, invest in climate-resilient infrastructure, and prod manufacturing facilities to adopt sustainable practices.

Way Forward:

  • India should remain focused on semiconductor manufacturing due to its strategic importance, which will significantly impact future geoeconomics and geopolitics.
  • It should also pay attention to the risks posed by climate change and take necessary steps.

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