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

 

Banking on the next Fukushima

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Kumi Naidoo and Nuclear Campaigner Yannick Rousselet protest the passage of a train carrying nuclear waste. Image: Pierre Gleizes Two months after the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan our thoughts are with those who...

Rainbow Warrior to begin analysis on radioactive samples

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Breaking news! Japanese government announces cancellation of all new nuclear reactor...

Blog entry by Michelle Frey | May 11, 2011

“Greenpeace applauds Prime Minister Kan’s ambitious proposal to scrap the construction of 14 new nuclear reactors,” said Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan Executive Director. “ This announcement could put Japan’s energy policy on a new...

Research still blocked by Japan's government, but some progress

Blog entry by Andrew Davies | May 8, 2011

Thanks to everyone who's been sending Twitter messages (politely) asking Japan's Prime Minister's Office (@JPN_PMO on Twitter) to let the Rainbow Warrior do radiation monitoring work closer to the coast. So far, you've sent over 3000...

Greenpeace blocks construction at France’s Flamanville nuclear reactor

Blog entry by Justin | May 5, 2011

At dawn on Monday this week, Greenpeace activists began blocking the construction of the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) under construction at Flamanville, France. Two trucks were anchored to the ground, blockading the entrance...

Rainbow Warrior begins sampling off Fukushima

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It has been a frustrating few days on the Rainbow Warrior. Until Sunday we were stopped outside of Tokyo bay, waiting out bad weather, trying to find a ship’s agent to represent us and arrange entry into port to fix our broken gyro...

Unfriend coal around the world, creatively

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The Facebook: Unfriend Coal campaign, much like the company at the center of it, has quickly spread across the globe. Perhaps this is because so many young people, early adopters of the platform and avid social networkers, also care...

Around the world against nuclear energy

Image gallery | April 29, 2011

Chernobyl: the unbearable lightness of human lives

Blog entry by Iris Cheng | April 29, 2011

On the Chernobyl media trip , a question that came up numerous times was "why don't you just move out of the area?" Dr Shulyak of Rokytne, who cares for the 53,000 living in the contaminated region, actually laughed. "Yes, some...

Marine radiation monitoring blocked by Japanese government

Blog entry by Ike Teuling | April 29, 2011

Since the start of the Fukushima disaster I have been following the worrying developments from a safe distance in Amsterdam, but suddenly, I am on rocking ship getting closer to the disaster area every day. I joined the Rainbow...

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