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Private Investments in India’s Nuclear Energy Sector |

Private Investments in India’s Nuclear Energy Sector

Context

∙ India is planning to invite private companies to invest approximately $26 billion in its nuclear energy sector.

About

∙ The government plans to build 11,000 megawatts (MW) of new nuclear power generation capacity by 2040.

∙ Under the funding plan, the private companies will make the investments in the nuclear plants, acquire land, water and undertake construction in areas outside the reactor complex of the plants.

∙ However, the rights to build and run the stations and their fuel management will rest with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL).

∙ The plan will not require any amendment to India’s Atomic Energy Act of 1962 but will need a final go-ahead from the Department of Atomic Energy.

∙ Though, Indian law bars private companies from setting up nuclear power plants but allows them to supply components, equipment and sign construction contracts for work outside of the reactors.

Benefits of Private Investment

∙ Achieve the energy target: The proposed funding is crucial for India to achieve its target of having 50% of its installed electric generation capacity sourced from non-fossil fuels by 2030, compared to the current 42%.

∙ Increased Efficiency: Private companies bring in more efficient management practices, technological advancements, and innovation to the sector. 

∙ Innovation and Research: Private investment incentivizes the development of advanced reactor designs, fuel cycles, safety systems, and waste management solutions, leading to long-term sustainability and competitiveness in the sector.

∙ Financial Resources: Private investment provides additional financial resources for the development and expansion of nuclear infrastructure. 

What is Nuclear Energy?

∙ Nuclear energy is the energy released during nuclear reactions, either through fission (splitting of atomic nuclei) or fusion (merging of atomic nuclei). 

∙ In nuclear fission, heavy atomic nuclei, such as those of uranium or plutonium, are split into lighter nuclei, releasing a large amount of energy. 

∙ This process is utilized in nuclear power plants to generate electricity. 

India’s Nuclear Programme

Private Investments in India’s Nuclear Energy Sector |

∙ Nuclear Energy is a non-carbon-emitting energy source that contributes less than 2% of India’s total electricity generation.

∙ NPCIL owns and operates India’s current fleet of nuclear power plants, with a capacity of 7,500 MW, and has committed investments for another 1,300 MW.

∙ India imports uranium fuel for nuclear plants from Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, France and Canada under bilateral agreements.

Advantages of Nuclear Energy

∙ Energy Security: Nuclear energy with its high power output can solve the energy crisis that the world is facing today. The fuel to power output ratio for nuclear energy is incredibly high. A relatively small amount of uranium can be used to fuel a 1000 Megawatts electric plant, thus providing enough electricity to power a city of about half a million people.

∙ Clean energy: Nuclear power plants have a low greenhouse gas footprint. The World Nuclear Association found that the average emissions for nuclear power are 29 tonnes of CO2 per gigawatt-hour (GWh) of energy produced.

∙ This compares favorably with solar (85 tonnes per GWh), wind (26 tonnes per GWh) and fossil fuels like lignite (1,054 tonnes per GWh).

∙ Low Operating Costs: Nuclear power produces very inexpensive electricity and is cheaper than gas, coal, or any other fossil fuel plants. 

Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy

∙ Risky source of energy: The risks of nuclear power are ultimately uncontrollable. The Chernobyl disaster of 1986 and Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011 have already shown the dangers of nuclear power.

∙ Not really renewable: Uranium, the nuclear fuel that is used to produce nuclear energy, is limited and cannot be produced again and again on demand.

∙ Radioactive Waste Disposal: A nuclear power plant creates 20 metric tons of nuclear fuel per year, and with that comes a lot of nuclear waste. The greater part of this waste transmits radiation and high temperature, causing damage to living things in and around the plants.

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