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

 

Marching against nukes

Blog entry by Usha Saxena | March 31, 2011

It was the last day of the Parliament session – 25th March 2011. A motley bunch of concerned citizens – under the banner ‘Anti-Nuclear Struggle Solidarity Forum’ - marched determinedly under the blistering afternoon sun from Mandi...

From our radiation sampling team in Japan

Blog entry by Brian Fitzgerald | March 28, 2011

Jacob Namminga , one of our radiation safety advisors, spoke to me via Skype about today's sampling trip in a rural area of Japan, to the north west of the Fukushima nuclear plant. We'll be reporting the details of our findings  once...

Anti Nuclear Protest in Delhi

Image | March 25, 2011 at 18:01

25 March 2011 - India. In solidarity with the Japanese people, the civil society of Delhi organized an anti-nuclear march. They demand an immediate moratorium on all new projects, and a stringent review of existing plants by independent experts.

Increased radiation detected in Japan’s food and water

Blog entry by Jess Miller | March 24, 2011

For days we’ve heard conflicting reports about the safety of radiation levels in the food and water in Japan. Just a few days ago, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government stated that radiation levels had decreased in the city. However,...

Mourn the dead; fight for the living. Solidarity and protest

Blog entry by Priya Pillai | March 23, 2011

There I was standing, amongst the 400-odd people who had gathered at India Gate, overwhelmed by mixed emotions. The energy and enthusiasm was contagious. Just weeks after the triple tragedy struck humanity in Japan, people from all...

Update: Fire burns at reactor 3 and food contamination concerns rise

Blog entry by Jess Miller | March 22, 2011

The Fukushima/Daiichi nuclear crisis continues, marked by confusion and a lack of information and transparency. Today, our team of nuclear experts and monitors followed reports of grey smoke coming out of the spent fuel pool of the...

Japan Jaitapur: The similarities are scary, technology dangerous

Blog entry by Karuna Raina | March 21, 2011

The incidents in Japan have shocked the world. Every time the television flashes images of destruction, I wonder how long and how much will this country have to suffer? The rise of Japan, since it was struck 66 years ago, is legend and...

Update: Call for improved evacuation and radioactivity plans

Blog entry by Jess Miller | March 21, 2011

It's been 10 days since the series of explosions and radiation leaks that led to the devastating crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant . As radioactive contamination grows and conditions remain critical, we are calling for improved...

Pressure at reactor 3 stable, concerns over radioactive food rising

Blog entry by Jess Miller | March 20, 2011

Earlier today, we told you about a build up in pressure at reactor #3 that could result in the venting of radioactive air and steam into the atmosphere. According to reports from NISA, that release was not necessary and didn’t happen.

Fukushima update: Radiation detected in food and water far from stricken nuclear facility

Blog entry by Andrew Davies | March 19, 2011

While the workers at Fukushima are continuously spraying reactor unit 3 with water from fire fighting and special forces trucks, the wider implications and impact of the nuclear disaster are becoming clearer. Traces of radioactive...

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