Nuclear Power in India: Civil Services Mentor Magazine - April - 2015

Nuclear Power in India

Nuclear energy is highly important for the nation. At present electricity produced through nuclear source is fourth larges with first three spots are occupied by thermal, hydroelctric and renewable sources. As of 2013, India has 21 nuclear reactors in operation in 7 nuclear power plants, and India have 5780 MW of installed capacity. India has an ambisious plan of producing 63,000 MW electricy by 2032. In recent years various protests have halted the progress in the nuclear power. These protest erupted mostly after the 2011 fukushima nuclear disaster in Republic of Japan. There have been mass protests against the French-backed 9900 MW Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project in Maharashtra and the Russian-backed 2000 MW Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu. India’s has very low Uranium ore reserve and coutry has to mostly import the Uranium for its nuclear power industry. India has good thorium ore reserves and India’s Three stage nuclear power program developed by Homi Bhabha attempts to secure the countries energy dependence through the use of Thorium and Uranium. India has been making advances in the field of thorium-based fuels, working to design and develop a prototype for an atomic reactor using thorium.

Canada was the first country which provided the assistance to India to built a research nuclear reactor as well as as a nuclear power plant. This agreement was done becuase India gave the assurance that nuclear reactor will be usedonly for civil purpose and not for the military purposes. The technical and design information were given free of charge by AECL to India. When India rightfully done a nuclear test in 1974 assistance provided by The United States and Canada was withdrawn. Russia has been the only country which has constantly supported India. An Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) of India and Russia signed an agreement for the construction of two reactors in 1988. Followinf that agreement Kundankulam nuclear power plant with two units has been built in Tamil nadu. But after the deal between India and USA on nuclear power, Nuclear Suppliers Group provided a waiver to India in September 2008. This provided the opportunity for International cooperation in nuclear supply to India. India has signed bilateral deals on civilian nuclear energy technology cooperation with several other countries, including France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and South Korea. France became the first country after 2008 to sign a nuclear agreement with India. In the agreement French company Areva agreed to build two nuclear power plants in Jaitapur, Maharastra. Project is facing some difficulties due to activists and also because India is not a signatory to Nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Canada which is largest supplier of Uranium has also agreed to supply Uranium to India, this deal was finalised in 2010. South Korea also signed a nuclear agreement with India in 2011. India and South Korea signed a nuclear agreement, which will allow South Korea with a legal foundation to participate in India’s nuclear expansion programme, and to bid for constructing nuclear power plants in India. Australia, the third largest producer of uranium in the world, also agreed to sign a nuclear supply agreement with India. This agreement for supply of Uranium is only for the peaceful purpose.

INDIA AND U.S. Nuclear Deal

Nuclear cooperation between India and U.S.A. began in 2005. India and U.S. agreed for nuclear cooperation during visit of U.S. president George W. Bush to India. Under this India agreed to separate its civil and military nuclear facilities and India also agreed for placing its civil nuclear facility under IAEA. In return U.S. agreed for the full cooperation with India. But this deal faced difficulties since then mainly because:

  • U.S. domestic Atomic energy act of 1954 made it difficult.
  • India was not given exception from Nuclear suppliers group at that time.
  • Liability of supplier in case of default was a contentious issue.
  • Administrative arrangements of the India-US 123 nuclear agreement.

Most of these issues have been resolved and India and US are seemingly on course for nuclear cooperation. President Barack Obama visited India for Republic day 2015. Highlight of the visit was the breakthrough in nuclear cooperation between India and U.S. Some of the issues in Indian Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act (CLNDA), which proved to be hindrance for nuclear cooperation between India and US are agreed now. The main issues in respect of CLNDA related to:

(i) Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act (CLNDA) is not in the conformity with the provisions of the Convention on Supplementary Convention (CSC);
(ii) Sec. 17(b) of CLNDA, which allowed for Right of Recourse against the supplier; and
(iii) Sec. 46, which allowed for legal cases against the operator under Acts other than the CLNDA.

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