Nuclear power development in India: A patriotic perspective

by K Vijayachandran

Engr. K Vijayachandran F.I.E

[Indo-US nuclear deal was rushed through in 2007, as if India urgently needed a large quantum of imported nuclear power plants, over and above its own indigenous program. USA has been pressing for its implementation is unhappy with the poor progress. Even Modi’s visit to USA was a disappointment in this regard: there are speculations now that problems will be sorted out during Obama’s visit to India next week. Need for rushing with imports is now being debated by experts, once again.This paper presented in an IEI seminar at Kochi, in June 2013 is published here in this context.]

Nuclear electricity plays an increasing role in grid power development in developed countries, and the trend is likely to continue. Thanks to the complex nature of the technology, that demands close regulation at the national as well as global levels, only large economies with pretty high level of state intervention capabilities could afford its development: Most developing countries are, thus, denied the benefits of this relatively new source of energy.

USA has a big lead in reactor technologies (as is the case of all areas of frontier technologies) and a majority of nuclear reactors, operating in the world today, are of US make or made under US license. It tries to retain reactor technology as its natural monopoly, and uses the unjust NPT regime for this purpose.

Indian nuclear program, based on the atoms for peace policy of Nehru days, has made tremendous strides in the peaceful applications of nuclear energy; in health, agriculture, industries and power generation. Eighteen power reactors of total capacity 4460 MW designed, manufactured and fuelled by us are safely working for several years in six power plants, located in six different states of our union republic: Five more are getting ready for commissioning, including a Thorium based Fast Breeder Reactor of 570 MW.

Our PHWR reactors of 220 MW, 540 MW, and 700 MW ratings are internationally well accepted as safe, robust, efficient and cost-effective. We are well advanced in the futuristic breeder technology using Thorium, the exclusive fuel resource of great relevance to our country. DAE has a dozen specialist organizations, dealing with diverse aspects of nuclear technologies with a manpower base of around 50,000. India is a major non-weapon nuclear power, respected for its well-integrated technological capabilities, and in this respect, shares a ring-side seat among the comity of nations, along with USA, Russia, France and China.

The three stage nuclear power development program, envisaged by DAE, had targeted for 29460 MW of nuclear power by the year 2022, 62,900 MW by 2032, and 274560 MW by 2052 (targets of 2001). Breeder technology using our own Thorium resources is the unique feature of India’s three stage program, which has, by and large, stood the test of time. Even India’s Business classes, like Tatas, Birlas or Ambanis could play a role in this national endeavor, if they shed their comprodorial outlook and aspirations.

India never had a serious nuclear weapons program: the two test explosions by the country, one by Indira Gandhi and the other by Vajpayee as Prime Minister, were aberrations to the atom for peace policy formulated by Nehru. However, these were used as alibis for treating India like a nuclear Pariah, by USA, using the unjust NPT-NSG regime under its command. During those cold war years, Soviet Union came forward to help India in setting up the Kudankulam power plant, on extremely favorable terms and conditions, and as an integral part of its own national program.

Implementing this program, along with its vision and targets, may be accepted as a national platform. The organizational structures developed over a period of time, may be reviewed and revised as necessary by the Indian Parliament, and all necessary support by way of material, financial and policy inputs ensured for its systematic implementation. State governments, members of Indian parliament and all patriotic sections of the Indian people should take special interest in this program of great national importance.

The ongoing nuclear power program, the related organizational infrastructure, and human resources base were developed at enormous cost to the national economy, and represent a large investment of great relevance and value for our future. No deal or treaty with foreign countries or change in statutes should affect the efficacy and integrity of this national program or destabilize the structures that were created in the long term benefits of our country.

India, like the USA, is an equal member of UN-IAEA and should take the initiative for opening it up, and strive to liberate it from the clutches of US stranglehold and its handmaiden, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, with the help of other countries. Normal international trade in nuclear materials needs to be encouraged, under the supervision of IAEA, which should promote international cooperation in the peaceful applications of atomic energy.

India should use its bi-lateral relationships and diplomatic influence with other countries and group of countries, for a role in the management of IAEA that is commensurate with its expertise and image as the largest non-weapon nuclear country in the developing world.

India should keep its commitments to the exclusive use of nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes and campaign for total nuclear disarmament along with all peace-loving peoples of the world.

*Presented in the seminar at Institution of Engineers Cochin Centre on 24-06-2013