India’s nuclear ambition

The Government of India intends to draw twenty-five per cent of its energy from nuclear power by 2050. This plan includes 20,000 MW of installed capacity from nuclear energy by 2020, and 63,000 MW by 2032.

There are currently twenty one operational nuclear power reactors in India, across six states. They contribute less than three per cent of the country’s total energy generation, yet radioactively pollute at every stage of the nuclear fuel cycle: from mining and milling to reprocessing or disposal. There is no long-term radioactive waste disposal policy in India.

The inherent risks of nuclear power are made greater in India by the structure of the country’s nuclear establishment. he organisation in charge of safety in all nuclear facilities, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, shares staff and is provided funds with the organisations it is supposed to be regulating. This compromises its ability to act independently and enforce vigorous safety regulations.

In addition, there is little distinction between military and civilian nuclear affairs, and all matters of atomic energy come directly under the Prime Minister, not parliament. This means the nuclear establishment is under no obligation to disclose information on the nuclear power sector to citizens. There’s no excuse for this opacity in a country with an ambition to use nuclear energy for electricity.

Regardless of these flaws, India is one of the few countries in the world that is expanding its nuclear power sector at an enormous rate. Seven more nuclear reactors are under construction, of 4800 MW installed capacity. At least thirty-six new nuclear reactors are planned or proposed. See them on a map.

Foreign investment in India's nuclear sector

India’s civilian nuclear programme was largely indigenous for many years, but the government is now beckoning foreign investment. It intends to set up ‘nuclear parks’ supplied by foreign companies and operated - for now - by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), a government-owned company. These ‘parks’ are planned to have installed generated capacity of 8,000-10,000 MW at a single site. As the greatest installed capacity at one site is currently only 1,400 MW (Tarapur Atomic Power Station in Maharashtra, with four reactors), this is a huge increase.

Russian company Atomstroyexport, a government subsidiary, has reached a deal to build sixteen nuclear reactors in India. From the two of these units, of 1000 MW each, one is operational and the other is currently under construction in Kundankulam, Tamil Nadu.

French company AREVA NP (a joint venture between AREVA and Seimens) have agreed to construct six 1650 MW reactors in Jaitapur, Maharastra. The European pressurised reactors, an untested type of reactor, will have a collective capacity of 9900 MW, making the Jaitapur nuclear power plant the largest in the world.

Private US companies GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy and Westinghouse Electric have been given sites at Kovada in Andhra Pradesh and Mithivirdi in Gujarat, respectively. It should be noted that, while the US seems happy to export nuclear reactors, not a single nuclear plant has been commissioned in the US since the 1979 Three Mile Island accident

Clean energy and climate change

Nuclear energy is often painted as a ‘clean’ energy option, and therefore a solution to climate change. Splitting the atom doesn’t produce greenhouse gases, but the nuclear fuel cycle is far from clean: it produces radioactive waste that pollutes the environment for generations. Radioactive material has also leaked into the environment in the many accidents at Indian nuclear power plants, suggesting the sector is anything but clean.

As for a contribution to climate change, the expert committee on an integrated energy policy set up by the planning commission takes a dim view of nuclear power prospects: 'Even if a 20-fold increase takes place in India’s nuclear capacity by 2031-32, the contribution of nuclear to the energy mix is at best expected to be 5-6 per cent,' they write.

In contrast, renewable energy does not pollute the environment, nor produce greenhouse gases. It is the true solution to climate change.

Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010

Greenpeace India’s campaign on nuclear energy began with the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill in 2010. The bill was the last hurdle for the government in opening up India’s nuclear power industry to private investors in the USA, and proposed that financial liability for foreign suppliers – in the event of an accident – be capped at Rs. 500 crore. This amount was far lower than demanded by other countries, and even lower than levels of damages sometimes claimed in weather storms. Much of the liability was also transferred to the operator – in this case the Indian government – meaning that compensation would be covered by the taxpayer. It indicated the government’s disregard for the safety and well being of Indian citizens in preference of foreign investment.

Through the involvement of Greenpeace and other groups, the terms of the Bill were changed to include supplier liability in addition to the operator liability. India’s liability regime is currently unique in that it also holds suppliers accountable.

The latest updates

 

EPR-Nuclear-Reactor-2012

Publication | February 6, 2012 at 20:27

An update of the 2008 Greenpeace International briefing on the EPR reactor. We have added some of the many new design and construction errors and the economic setbacks the EPR has run into. We also include more information on the tremendous gains...

British scientist blames James Bond villain for unpopularity of nuclear power

Blog entry by Justin McKeating | January 16, 2012

Well, now we know; the reason for widespread public distrust of nuclear power is because way back in 1962, Dr No - the evil scientist in the James Bond film of the same name - built a nuclear reactor on a Jamaican island and used it...

The world is turning its back on nuclear power

Blog entry by Justin McKeating | December 2, 2011

That’s the key conclusion of the BBC’s poll into public attitudes towards nuclear power released last week. Conducted in 23 countries, the poll found that for only 22% of those people asked, “nuclear power is relatively safe and an ...

Historical and future seismicity near Jaitapur, India

Publication | November 30, 2011 at 11:01

Here's a commentary on historical and future seismicity of the region of Jaitapur in Maharashtra. The article has been written by Roger Bilham and Vinod K. Gaur and was published in Current Science Vol. 101, No. 10, on November 25, 2011.

Nuclear follies: ignoring radiation ownership and ignoring earthquake risks

Blog entry by Justin McKeating | November 29, 2011

It never ceases to amaze us how far the nuclear industry will go to ignore its responsibilities, or to avoid protecting the public from the risks of radiation. Two new entries in the nuclear follies scrapbook demonstrate. Folly...

Don’t Hack the Hippies: Nuclear giant EDF found guilty of spying on Greenpeace

Blog entry by Justin McKeating | November 11, 2011

As the great Mahatma Gandhi (nearly) said, "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they spy on you, then you win". That's pretty much the chain of events that lead to today's conviction by a French court of French...

“These are not good times for an orangutan.”

Blog entry by Pooja Tanna | October 10, 2011

I belong to the rainforests in Indonesia but circumstances forced me to come down to the concrete jungle of Mumbai in India. I am an orangutan, which means ‘person of the forest’ in Malay! Everything was fine, till some humans started...

No one dead

Blog entry by Karuna Raina | October 4, 2011

“No one dead.37 with physical injuries.2 workers with radiation burns.” – 2nd June, IAEA. As soon as the ongoing tragedy at Fukushima started, so started the coverage, unlike Chernobyl, where for days no one knew what happened. The...

Rise of the Orangutans

Feature story | September 24, 2011 at 15:33

“Is your brand linked to rainforest destruction?” That was the uncomfortable question posed to delegates at GLOBOIL 2011, the international conference on vegetable oil and oilseeds at Hotel Renaissance, Mumbai on September 24. The fact that it...

Top 10 things Indian citizens could do in case of a nuclear power plant accident in...

Blog entry by SP Udayakumar | August 22, 2011

Are you kidding? Reactors in India can never ever have an accident. Don't trust the news; it's all Pakistani military's anti-India propaganda. Beware! Osama bin Laden's disgruntled ghost might be causing this havoc. ...

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