Indian energy security. Nuclear energy policy

Term Paper, 2012

15 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Indian Energy Security

3. Indian Nuclear Policy
3.1 The Current Situation
3.2 Three Stages Civilian Nuclear Power Programme
3.3 Historical Development
3.4 Legal Framework
3.5 Indo-US Nuclear Deal and Its Implications
3.6 Critique on the Implementation of Nuclear Policy
3.7 Advantages
3.8 Disadvantages

4. Conclusion


1. Introduction

Consider the past 400 years of history. The world developed a new source of power, steam, and the industrial age came in. India with all her many virtues did not develop that source of power and it became a backward and a slave country. Now, we are on the verge of the atomic age. If we are to remain abreast in the world as a nation which keeps ahead of things, we must develop this atomic energy quite apart from war…of course, if we are compelled as a nation to use it for other purposes, no pious sentiments of any one of us can stop the nation from using it that way.[1]

Energy is the key to a state’s economic growth: it influences not only sustainable development, but also areas such as education and health. India is one of the world’s fasted growing economies and, consequently, energy markets. It is confronted with the challenge of closing the vast gap between energy demand and supply and additionally considering climate change. Currently, India’s energy mix is dominated by fossil fuels such as oil and coal, which has to be imported and makes the country dependent on global price fluctuations.

Nuclear power is an energy resource that could increase India’s energy security and fulfil the needs of guaranteeing both economic growth and environmental sustainability for India. This paper analyses India’s Nuclear Energy Policy, its three stage nuclear plan and its historical development. Due to lacking civil nuclear cooperation with other countries and few uranium reserves of bad quality, India was not able to develop and unfold its nuclear program over the last decades. An important step towards a larger share of nuclear power has been the Indo-US nuclear deal, which the Indian government appreciates very much, as it opened up trade options for technology and fuel for India.

Morever, this paper focuses on legal issues concerning nuclear energy, its advantages and disadvanteges and will also give critique on the implementation and integration of the policy. It will conclude that nuclear energy has a lot of obstacles, but is an important alternative option for India to become independent from fossil fuels.

2. Indian Energy Security

Energy is the engine for economic growth and when the country moves ahead on the growth path, it is necessary to exploit every energy resource available in the country.[2]

Energy is vital for human development and the demand for energy is rising parallel to the human population, urbanisation and modernisation. Currently, the world is still dependent on fossil fuels to be able to supply the amount of consumed energy across the world. Economies are dependent on energy, which is why energy security is such an important issue.[3]

Energy security means consistent availability of sufficient energy in various forms at affordable prices. These conditions must prevail over the long-term if energy is to contribute to sustainable development.[4]

India is one of the world’s largest energy consumers and currently relies on importing fuels. The major fuel in India’s energy mix is coal 60%, followed by oil 30% and natural gas, which is produced domestically. Nuclear energy makes up for only about 3% and renewable energies about 10%.[5] There is a huge gap between energy demand and energy supply in India, due to its rapidly growing economy. Nevertheless, the government plans to maintain this growth of 8% annually, which implies that demand for electricity will grow 7.4% annually.[6] Therefore, more and more reliable power supplies are required, since one third of India’s population is not connected to any of the country’s five electricity grids. They are operated by the state-owned Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCI). In July 2012, the grid in the North of the country failed and left 600 million people in 22 states without power for approximately 24 hours.[7]

Energy shortages in India have been increasing since 1985 and will continue during the upcoming years. Nevertheless, India as an emerging country will have to find a middle path between economic development and environmental sustainability, which requires it to change its energy mix drastically. Instead of the currently dominating coal, cleaner and sustainable sources of energy should play a major role. Nuclear energy is considered by many as being the only source of energy suitable to support continuous industrialisation and urbanisation. It currently only provides 3% of India’s total electricity but after the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, it is likely to gain importance and could reduce India’s dependence on fossil fuels.[8]

However, this is only possible if nuclear power can provide 25% of the total energy requirements. The Department of Atomic Energy therefore set up a program based on a mix of Pressurised Heavy Water Reactos (PHWRs), Light Water Reactors (LWRs) and Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs).[9]

3. Indian Nuclear Policy

At present the contribution of nuclear energy to India’s electricity requirement is very meager. India is planning to increase the present share of 3 per cent to 10 per cent by 2022 and 26 per cent by 2052. This translates to an increase in installed nuclear power generation capacity from the current level of 4,780 MW to 40,000 MW by 2020 and 250,000 MW by 2050. To meet these targets, India will need to invest $65 billion between 2010 and 2020 in new power plants. Significant investments will also be required to secure fuel for the existing nuclear reactors, almost all of which are based on the Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) technology. [10]

Nuclear energy plays an important role in India’s energy mix, even if it currently provides only 5000MW through nuclear power. It aims to supply approximately 20.000MW by 2020. By 2050 it wants to provide 25% of electricity from nuclear power (250.000MW).[11] Nuclear power until recently obtained only a minor function, as its nuclear programme was originally merely concerned with nuclear weapons. Moreover, it has only few sources of the radioactive fuel uranium and had problems importing it until 2009 as it is no signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Nevertheless, nuclear energy is likely to become ever more important due to the US-India civilian nuclear deal, which allows it to traid with various Nuclear Supplier Group countries and because the parliament considers a bill that would privatise nuclear power in India.[12] Moreover, over the last decades India gained expertise in fast reactors and the thorium fuel cycle and strives to become a world leader in nuclear techlology.[13]

3.1 The Current Situation

The overarching aim of India’s nuclear energy strategy is self-sufficiency, compelled by trade restrictions by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) after the Indian nuclear explosion in 1974. Since 2008, there exists an exception for trade with India. Determined by its natural resources, India cannot rely on the usually common reactor fuel uranium which exists only rarely (1% of world’s deposits) and in low concentration in India. However, it maintains an abundance of thorium reserves (30% of the world); a material which could serve hundreds of times more energy than uranium. Unfortunately, it is not fissionable by itself, but has to be activated with plutonium, which is left over from the uranium cycle. Thus, research and development in the thorium fuel cycle is perceived an important path to stability, sustainability and autonomy in energy security.[14]

According to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), seven new reactors were under construction in 2010. Two with a capacity of 1000Mwe being built in Kundakulam, expected to operate from September 2010 and March 2011 (and which many people are protesting against currently). Two with a capacity of 700Mwe in Rajasthan, to be finished in 2016. One 220Mwe reactor in Kaiga by 2010 and two 700Mwe reactors in Kakrapar and Gujarat by 2015. A lot of effort is made to reach the 20.000Mwe target by 2020, but delays in the building process and the operationalization are probable.[15] Approximately $65 billion will have to be invested in new power plants between 2010 and 2020, additional money to secure fuel. To meet its targets, India relies on the cooperation with other countries, which is the reason for the agreement with the United States.[16] In 2011, nuclear power provided 3,7% of India’s electricity (20 billion kWh): it increased again after a decline in 2008-09, due to new plants and imported uranium becoming available.[17]

3.2 Three Stages Civilian Nuclear Power Programme

In 1958, H.J.Bhabha and N.B.Prasad presented the seminar paper on India’s nuclear self-sufficiency at the United Nations Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy. It laid down a three stage plan for a sustainable nuclear energy program, based on India’s limited resouces of uranium, but vast resources of thorium, which is still followed by the government.[18]


[1] Nehru 1948

[2] Grover 2005, p. 7

[3] Asif and Muneer 2007, p. 1389

[4] Asif and Muneer 2007, p. 1401

[5] Asif and Muneer 2007, p. 1404

[6] Pate 2011

[7] World Nuclear Association 2012

[8] Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi 2010, p. 23

[9] Grover and Chandra 2006, p. 2834

[10] Hussain 2011

[11] Pate 2011

[12] Carnegie Endowment 2007

[13] World Nuclear Association 2012

[14] Bucher 2009, p. 1

[15] Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi 2010, p. 23-24

[16] Hussain 2011

[17] World Nuclear Association 2012

[18] Bucher 2009, p. 1

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Indian energy security. Nuclear energy policy
Charles University in Prague
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India, energy security, nuclear policy
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Annemarie Kunz (Author), 2012, Indian energy security. Nuclear energy policy, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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