Nuclear Energy in India

Electricity demand in India is increasing rapidly. Coal provides 68% of the electricity at present, but reserves are limited. Gas provides 8% and hydro contributes 14% of electricity. The per capita electricity consumption figure is expected to double by 2020 with 6.3% annual growth reaching 5000-6000 kWh by 2050.

Nuclear power is the fourth-largest source of electricity in India after thermal, hydroelectric and renewable sources of electricity. As of 2010, India had 20 nuclear reactors in operation in six nuclear power plants, generating 4,780 MW, while 5 other plants are under construction and are expected to generate an additional 2,720 MW. India's nuclear power industry is undergoing rapid expansion with plans to increase nuclear power output to 64,000 MW by 2032. The country is involved in the development of nuclear fusion reactors through its participation in the ITER project and is a global leader in the development of thorium-based fast breeder reactors.

India's domestic uranium reserves are small and the country is dependent on uranium imports to fuel its nuclear power industry. Following a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group in September 2008 which allowed it to commence international nuclear trade, India has signed bilateral deals on civilian nuclear energy technology cooperation with several other countries, including France, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. India also has uranium supply agreements with Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Argentina and Namibia.

The Indian nuclear power industry is expected to undergo a significant expansion in the coming years. The U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement will allow India to carry out trade of nuclear fuel and technologies with other countries and significantly enhance its power generation capacity. When the agreement goes through, India is expected to generate an additional 25,000 MW of nuclear power by 2020 bringing total estimated nuclear power generation to 45,000 MW.

India has developed a largely indigenous nuclear power program and expects to have 20,000 MWe nuclear capacity on line by 2020 and 63,000 MWe by 2032. It aims to supply 25% of electricity from nuclear power by 2050.

Nuclear Energy and Climate

One of the reasons nuclear energy is considered to be a viable source of energy is because it is a clean source of fuel which will help reduce carbon emissions in the future. In addition to reducing emissions, water requirements for drinking purposes can be fulfilled by using nuclear power to desalinate sea water. For reactors near the sea, desalination plants would be used to turn sea water into potable drinking water.

Regulation of Nuclear Energy and Safety in India

The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was established in 1948 under the Atomic Energy Act as a policy body. Then in 1954 the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) was set up to encompass research, technology development and commercial reactor operation. The current Atomic Energy Act is amended and is read as of 1962, and it permits only government-owned enterprises to be involved in nuclear power.

The DAE includes the following bodies:


2. Uranium Corporation of India (mining and processing),

3. Electronics Corporation of India Ltd. (reactor control and instrumentation) and 4. BHAVIN (Bhartiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd.) for setting up fast reactors.

The government also controls the Heavy Water Board for production of heavy water and the Nuclear Fuel Complex for fuel and component manufacture.

The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) was formed in 1983 and comes under the AEC but is independent of DAE. It is responsible for the regulation and licensing of all nuclear facilities and their safety and carries authority conferred by the Atomic Energy Act for radiation safety and by the Factories Act for industrial safety in nuclear plants.

The atomic energy regulatory framework as envisaged under the 1962 Act is an umbrella legislation that, inter alia, provides for a broad canvas covering areas such as identification, siting, installation, operation and safety of the atomic reactors. Mining and other related issues are also covered within the framework of the 1962 Act. Further, to carry out all these activities, the 1962 Act requires more specific details to be worked out by various rules and regulations. Accordingly, rules and regulations have been formulated and all of them together form the entire nuclear regulatory framework within India.

Atomic Energy Regulatory Board:

The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) was set up under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962 to carry out certain regulatory and safety functions envisaged under Section 16, 17 and 23 of the Act. The Board is responsible to the Atomic Energy Commission. The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board has powers to lay down safety standard and frame rules and regulations in regard to the regulatory and safety requirements envisaged under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962.

Global Cooperation in Nuclear Sector in India:

India and United States: 123 Agreement:

The 123 Agreement between India and United States of America has put an end to technology denial regimes against India that have been in place for three decades and have ended India’s nuclear isolation. It has opened the doors for India to have civil nuclear cooperation as an equal partner with the USA and the rest of the world.

India and France

On 30th September, 2008, India and France signed “Cooperation Agreement” in which both the countries agreed that they shall cooperate in use of nuclear energy for peaceful and non explosive purposes in accordance with the provisions of the Agreement.

India and United Kingdom

On 11th February, 2010, India and UK signed the “Joint Declaration on Civil Nuclear Cooperation” at New Delhi. The Declaration was signed to help promote and facilitate a wide-ranging cooperation in the nuclear field, including nuclear trade and also between scientific institutions of the two countries.

India and Russia

On March 12, 2010, India & Russia agreed on a Roadmap for construction of reactors of Russian design in India. The road map outlines the timelines for steps to be taken for the construction of Kudankulam units 3 & 4. It provides for construction of two more reactors at Kudankulam (Units 5&6) and two reactors at Haripur, West Bengal during 12th Five Year Plan. Construction of more reactors of Russian design will be considered during formulation of the 13th Five Year Plan.

Business Opportunities in Nuclear Sector in India

The increasing awareness to generate power without polluting the environment and at the same time meet the increasing demand for power due to the rapid growth in the economy has resulted in the government shifting focus towards nuclear power. The government has set in reforms to allow the entry of private sector in power generation. But the process has been hampered by the fact that the ultimate purchase of power is in the hands of the state governments. At present the private sector accounts for only 15% of the total capacity, mostly in the renewable energy sector.

But the Government has strong plans to invite private sector - both national and international - in this field of energy and has already taken few steps in this regard.

  • Following the Nuclear Suppliers' Group agreement which was achieved in September 2008, the scope for supply of both reactors and fuel from suppliers in other countries opened up. Civil nuclear cooperation agreements which were signed with the USA, Russia, France, UK and Canada (pending) are also signed with Argentina, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Namibia.
  • Between 2010 and 2020, nuclear construction is expected to take total gross capacity to 21,180 MWe. The nuclear capacity target is a part of national energy policy. This planned increment includes the initial 300 MW Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR). The benchmark capital cost sanctioned by DAE for imported units is quoted at $1600 per kilowatt.
  • NPCIL had meetings and technical discussions with three major reactor suppliers - Areva of France, GE-Hitachi and Westinghouse Electric Corporation of the USA for supply of reactors for these projects and for new units at Kaiga.
  • India's largest power company, National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) in 2007 proposed building a 2000 MW nuclear power plant which is expected to be in operation by 2017. It would be the utility's first nuclear plant and also the first conventional nuclear plant not built by the government-owned NPCIL. One of the sites earmarked for a pair of 700 MW PHWR units may be allocated to the joint venture.
  • The Government has announced that it intends to amend the law to allow private companies to be involved in nuclear power generation and possibly other aspects of the fuel cycle, but this should be done without direct foreign investment. In anticipation of this, Reliance Power Ltd, GVK Power & Infrastructure Ltd, NTPC is reported to be establishing a joint venture with NPCIL and BHEL to sell India's largely indigenous 220 MW heavy water-power reactor units abroad.

Foreign Contribution:

  • There has been succession of agreements with Russia's Atomstroyexport to build further VVER reactors. In March 2010, a 'roadmap' for building six more reactors at Kudankulam by 2017 and four more at Haripur after 2017 was agreed, bringing the total to 12. The number may be increased after 2017 in India's 13th 5-year plan. A Russian fuel fabrication plant is also under consideration.
  • In February 2009, Areva signed a memorandum of understanding with NPCIL to build two, and later four more, EPR units at Jaitapur. This followed the Government signing a nuclear cooperation agreement with France in September 2008. In July 2009, Areva submitted a bid to NPCIL to build the first two EPR units, with a view to commissioning in 2017 and 2018.
  • In March 2009, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy signed agreements with NPCIL and Bharat Heavy Electricals (BHEL) to start making plans for building a multi-unit power plant using 1350 MW Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWR). In May 2009, L&T was brought into the picture. In April 2010, it was announced that the BHELNPCIL joint venture is in discussion with an unnamed technology partner to build a 1400 MW nuclear plant at Chutka in Madhya Pradesh with Madhya Pradesh Power Generating Company Limited (MPPGCL), the nodal agency to facilitate the execution of the project.
  • After a break of three decades, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL) is keen to resume technical cooperation, especially in relation to servicing India's PHWRs and there have been preliminary discussions regarding the sale of an ACR-1000.
  • In August 2009, NPCIL signed agreements with Korea Electric Power Co (KEPCO) to study the prospects for building Korean APR-1400 reactors in India.
  • India's largest engineering group, Larsen & Toubro (L&T) announced its venture into international markets in July 2008 for supply of heavy engineering components for nuclear reactors. It entered a 20 billion rupee (US$ 463 million) venture with NPCIL to build a new plant for domestic and export nuclear forgings at its Hazira, Surat coastal site in Gujarat state.
  • Following the 2008 removal of trade restrictions, Indian companies led by Reliance Power (RPower), NPCIL and BHEL said that they plan to invest over US$ 50 billion in the next five years to expand their manufacturing base in the nuclear energy sector.

Thus all these activities and developments are opening the doors for private investors globally and domestically in Nuclear Sector. Recently, a business delegation from Czech Republic also visited NPCIL to discuss the development of nuclear industry and capabilities of Czech Republic Industries in manufacturing equipment for Nuclear Power Plants.

Foreign Direct Investment in Nuclear Sector

As per Foreign Exchange Regulations and FDI policy of India, foreign investment in Atomic Energy (Nuclear Energy) is prohibited. The Indian Government is working very hard to ensure smooth passage of Nuclear Civil Liability Bill in the Parliament. The Government has ambitious plans to import nuclear equipment to expend its indigenous nuclear generation power programme from countries like France, Russia and USA. The imports will be subject to conditions that suppliers would have to take the entire risk for meeting emergency requirements which can be possible, provided that the Nuclear Civil Liability Bill has a smooth passage in the Parliament.

The Indian Government has also started taking steps in this direction and is planning to invite FDI in Nuclear Sector. The Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India has started organizing India Nuclear Energy - International Exhibition and Conference- an annual event for Indian Nuclear sector. It brings together the world’s nuclear fraternity all under one roof. It offers a comprehensive platform for qualified buyers and sellers from the global nuclear fraternity to find new customers and suppliers and evaluate the Indian Nuclear Market.

Research and Development

Bhabha Atomic Research Center:

The Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay (AEET) was formally dedicated to the nation by the then Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru on January 20, 1957. Later, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi renamed AEET as Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC) on January 22, 1967 as a fitting tribute to Dr. Homi Bhabha who died in an air crash on January 24, 1966. Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay has already left its impression on the world of science as one of the unique nuclear research institution where high quality research and development is taking place in the areas of nuclear reactor design and installation, fuel fabrication, chemical processing of depleted fuel, also acquiring sufficient expertise in the development of radioisotope application techniques in medicine, agriculture and industries. Basic and advanced research investigations were in full progress in nuclear physics, spectroscopy, solid state physics, chemical and life sciences, reactor engineering, etc.

Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research:

Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research [IGCAR], the second largest establishment of the Department of Atomic Energy next to Bhabha Atomic Research Centre was set up at Kalpakkam, 80 KMs south of Chennai [MADRAS], in 1971 with the main objective of conducting broad based multidisciplinary programme of scientific research and advanced Engineering directed towards the development of sodium cooled Fast Breeder Reactor [FBR] technology in India.

In meeting the objectives, a modest beginning was made by constructing a sodium cooled Fast Breeder Test Reactor [FBTR] with a nominal power of 40 Mwt based on the French Reactor, RAPSODIE. It is the first of its kind in the world to use Plutonium Uranium mixed carbide as a driver fuel.

Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology:

Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology was established by the Department of Atomic Energy, India to expand the activities carried out at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Mumbai, in two frontline areas of science and technology namely Lasers and Accelerators.

On February 19, 1984 the President of India, Gyani Zail Singh laid the foundation stone of the centre. Construction of laboratories and houses began in May 1984. In June 1986, the first batch of scientists from BARC, Mumbai, moved to RRCAT and scientific activities were started.

Since then, the centre has rapidly grown into a premier institute for research and development in lasers, accelerators and their applications.

Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre:

Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre is a premier R & D unit of the Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India. This Centre is dedicated to carry out frontier research and development in the fields of Accelerator Science & Technology, Nuclear Science (Theoretical and Experimental), Material Science, Computer Science & Technology and in other relevant areas.

Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research:

The prime mandate of Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research is to identify and evaluate uranium resources required for the successful implementation of Atomic Energy programme of the country. For implementing this important task investigations are taken up across the length and breadth of the country from Regional Exploration & Research Centres located at New Delhi, Bangalore, Jamshedpur, Shillong, Jaipur, Nagpur and Hyderabad (AMD Headquarter & South Central Region).

Industries and Mineral Sector:

Nuclear Fuel Complex:

The Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) established in the year 1971 is a major industrial unit of Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India. The complex is responsible for the supply of nuclear fuel bundles and reactor core components for all the nuclear power reactors operating in India. It is a unique facility where natural and enriched uranium fuel, zirconium alloy cladding and reactor core components are manufactured under one roof starting from the raw materials.

India is pursuing an indigenous three stage Nuclear Power Programme involving closed fuel cycles of Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) and Liquid Metal cooled Fast Breeder Reactors (LMFBRs) for judicious utilisation of the relatively limited reserves of uranium and vast resources of thorium.

Heavy Water Board:

Heavy Water Board (HWB), a constituent unit under Department of Atomic Energy, is primarily responsible for production of Heavy Water (D2O) which is used as a 'moderator' and 'Coolant' in the nuclear power as well as research reactors. HWB is successfully operating six Heavy Water Plants in the country. The plants based on Ammonia-Hydrogen (NH3-H2) exchange process are linked to the nitrogenous fertilizer plants for synthesis gas feed. A pilot plant, for alternate technology of Water Ammonia (H2O-NH3) exchange, which will make the ammonia based plants independent of fertilizer plants was successfully commissioned at Baroda, Gujarat and its scaled up version is nearly ready.

Power Sector:

Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited is a Public Sector Enterprise under the administrative control of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Government of India. The Company was registered as a Public Limited Company under the Companies Act, 1956 in September 1987 with the objective of operating the atomic power stations and implementing the atomic power projects for generation of electricity in pursuance of the schemes and programmes of the Government of India under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962.

The objectives of NPCIL are to maximize the power generation and profitability from nuclear power stations with the motto of ‘safety first and production next’; to increase nuclear power generation capacity in the country consistent with available resources in a safe, economical and rapid manner, keeping with the growth of the energy demand in the country.

Bhartiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited

Fusing the strengths of Indira Gandhi Center for Atomic Research (IGCAR) and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) a new public sector company Bhartiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited (BHAVINI) was created to carry out the construction and operations of DAE's first 500 MWe proto-type fast breeder reactor.

Public Sector:

Uranium Corporation of India Limited was incorporated on 4th October, 1967. Uranium Corporation of India Limited is a Public Sector Enterprise under the Department of Atomic Energy. Fulfilling the requirement of Uranium for the Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors, UCIL plays a very significant role in India’s nuclear power generation programme.

Electronics Corporation of India Limited:

Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) is a Government of India Enterprise under Department of Atomic Energy (India) established in 1967 by Dr. A. S. Rao to create a strong indigenous base in Electronics. ECIL is presently a multi-product, multi disciplinary organization with focus on Nuclear energy, Space and Defence sectors.

Indian Rare Earths Limited: Indian Rare Earths Limited (IREL) was incorporated on August 18, 1950 as a private limited company jointly owned by the Government of India and Government of Travancore, Cochin with the primary intention of taking up commercial scale processing of monazite sand at its first unit namely Rare Earths Division (RED), Aluva, Kerala for the recovery of thorium.
After becoming a full fledged Central Government Undertaking in 1963 under the administrative control of Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), IREL took over a number of private companies engaged in mining and separation of beach sand minerals in southern part of the country and established two more Divisions one at Chavara, Kerala and the other at Manavalakurichi(MK), Tamilnadu.
After a gap of about 20 years, IREL commissioned its largest Division called Orissa Sand Complex (OSCOM) at Chatrapur, Orissa.

Nuclear industry developments in India beyond the trade restrictions

Following the Nuclear Suppliers' Group agreement which was achieved in September 2008, the scope for supply of both reactors and fuel from suppliers in other countries opened up. Civil nuclear cooperation agreements have been signed with the USA, Russia, France, UK, South Korea and Canada along with Argentina, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Namibia.

The Russian PWR types were apart from India's three-stage plan for nuclear power simply to increase the generating capacity at a rapid pace. Now there are plans for eight 1000 MWe units at the Kudankulam site, and in January 2007 a memorandum of understanding was signed for Russia to build four more units in Russia and other units elsewhere in India.

Between 2010 and 2020, further construction is expected to take total gross capacity to 21,180 MWe. The nuclear capacity target is part of national energy policy.

India’s Current Nuclear Potential and Standing:

India’s Current Nuclear installed capacity is 4183Mwe. This serves 2.5% of the country’s energy needs. The ban on India from the NSG group was lifted on September 2008 when Washington pushed through a “waiver” that freed India from 34 years of sanctions. The Civil nuclear cooperation agreements have been

signed with USA, Russia, France, UK and Canada, as well as Argentina, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Namibia. There are plans for eight 1000 MWe units at the Kudankulam site, and in January 2007 a memorandum of understanding was signed for Russia to build four more units in Russia along with others elsewhere in India. The new units are expected to be the larger 1200 MWe AES-2006 versions. In 2005, four sites were approved for eight new reactors. Two of the sites, Kakrapar and Rajasthan, would have 700 MWe indigenous PHWR units, Kudankulam would have imported 1000 or 1200 MWe light water reactors along with the two units being built there by Russia, and the fourth site was greenfield for two 1000 MWe LWR units - Jaitapur in the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra state on the west coast. The plan has since expanded to six 1600 MWe EPR units.




MWe net, each

Commercial operation

Safeguards status

Tarapur 1 & 2






Kaiga 1 & 2





Kaiga 3





Kakrapar 1 & 2





in 2012 under new agreement

Kalpakkam 1 & 2 (MAPS)

Tamil Nadu




Narora 1 & 2

Uttar Pradesh




in 2014 under new agreement

Rajasthan 1






Rajasthan 2






Rajasthan 3 & 4





early 2010 under new agreement

Rajasthan 5 & 6




Feb & April 2010

Oct 2009 under new agreement

Tarapur 3 & 4




2006, 05

Total (19)

4183 MWe

Nuclear Energy Parks

In line with past practice such as at the eight-unit Rajasthan nuclear plant, NPCIL further intends to set up five "Nuclear Energy Parks" each with a capacity of up to eight new-generation reactors of 1,000 MWe, six reactors of 1600 MWe or simply 10,000 MWe at a single location.The new energy parks are to be:

Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu: three more pairs of Russian VVER units, making 9200 MWe. Environmental approval has been given for the first four.

Jaitapur in Maharashtra: Preliminary work at it is likely to begin soon with six of Areva's EPR reactors in view, making 9600 MWe. Environmental approval has been given for these.

Mithi Virdi (or Chayamithi Virdi) in Gujarat: to host US technology (possibly Westinghouse AP1000). NPCIL says it has initiated pre-project activities here with

groundbreaking planned for 2012.

Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh: to host US technology (possibly GE Hitachi ESBWR). NPCIL says it has initiated pre-project activities here, with groundbreaking planned for 2012. GE Hitachi says it expects to sign a contract in 2010 to supply six ESBWRs to NPCIL.

Haripur in West Bengal: to further host four Russian VVER-1200 units making 4800 MWe. NPCIL says it has initiated pre-project activities here, with groundbreaking planned for 2012.

Kumharia in Haryana is earmarked for four indigenous 700 MWe PHWR units and the AEC had approved the state's proposal for a 2800 MWe nuclear power plant. NPCIL says it has initiated pre-project activities with groundbreaking planned for 2012.

Bargi in Madhya Pradesh is also designated for two indigenous 700 MWe PHWR units. NPCIL says it has initiated pre-project activities here with groundbreaking planned for 2012.

At Markandi (Pati Sonapur) in Orissa there are plans to generate up to 6000 MWe of PWR capacity. Major industrial developments are planned in that area and Orissa was the first Indian state to privatize electricity generation and transmission. State demand is expected to go beyond 3,600 MW by end of 2011-12.

The AEC has also mentioned possible new nuclear power plants in Bihar and Jharkhand.

Conclusion: There have been a lot of issues associated with nuclear power and how safe it is, but with the development of new, safe and advanced technology the future for this everlasting source of energy seems very bright. Now that India has been inducted into the NPT as a NWS, and has already got into a lot of agreements with different countries to improve and develop the technology and efficiently utilize the nuclear resources, the day is not far when nuclear energy will form a major part in meeting India’s energy needs while at the same time being sustainable for future generations.

Author: Mr.Aaakash Chauhan



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