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Special Report | October 2016

Nuclear Solution

India´s ´Power for All´ initiative and focus on reducing carbon footprint have put pressure on the need for safe, green energy that can be produced on a large and sustainable scale; and it is here where nuclear power races ahead of its competitors.

As a country with growing population and rapid industrialisation, India´s energy needs have taken stride ahead of what we are able to currently produce or transport. With growth in demand and priority towards economic growth and alleviating poverty, the country is increasingly looking at cost-effective and green methods to provide power concurrent to the surging infrastructure development in the country. The OECD´s International Energy Agency predicts that India will need some $1,600 billion investment in power generation, transmission and distribution to 2035.

BP´s Energy Outlook projected India´s energy mix to evolve very slowly over the next 22 years with fossil fuels accounting for 87 per cent of demand in 2035, compared with a global average of 81 per cent (down from 92 per cent). Today, more than ever, there is a need of capacity building by means that can provide long term clean, green, cheap source of power. India requires a reliable, continuous source of sustainable and stable base load. The environmentally benign and economically viable source - nuclear power, can thus be slated to play that very important role in the power landscape of the country to meet these demanding conditions while meeting the huge energy needs for the ambitious GDP growth. Solar, biomass and wind power for instance are important sources of clean energy but the amount of energy a nuclear power plant can produce with a just tiny bit of uranium fuel distinguishes it from other sources of clean energy.

´India should exploit the potential of nuclear power that can offer large base load capacity additions with very favourable operational conditions such as low fuel costs, high capacity and availability factors leading to very low operational cost over a long life of 60 years. By making nuclear energy a significant part of its energy mix, in the coming years, India can achieve the goal of reducing emissions and also address the country´s energy security challenges,´ Observes Manju Gupta, President, Areva India.

Nuclear in India
India has set up an ambitious goal for growth of the nuclear power capacity. Capacity addition to the tune of 40 GWe is targeted from the PWRs with Gen III technology. Considering that this capacity has a significance attached in terms of achieving not only the purpose and pace of 3 phase program, but also to support the aim to provide environmental friendly, economically viable power option along with other domestic technologies such as PHWR, FBR and AHWR, it is important that a rigorous plan be set up to achieve these ambitions.

Says Kaustubh Shukla, Chief Operating Officer, Industrial Products Group, Godrej & Boyce, ´The target of 14.6 GW by 2024, looks quite feasible. This is scaled down vision from the earlier vision of 63 GW by 2032. That would have been a challenging, exciting and invigorating plan. To achieve this, we have to hasten the speed of execution - decision making, deployment of required resources, clearances for projects, acquisition of land at the chosen sites and all activities that feed into it. However the time is running out, and sooner we embark on the mission, better would be our chances of meeting it.´

Nuclear power for civil use is well established in India. Complete independence in the nuclear fuel cycle, necessary because the country is excluded from the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has resulted in India´s nuclear power program proceeding largely without fuel or technological assistance from other countries. Adds Gupta, ´India seems to have used the years of its isolation well to develop its own indigenous capabilities in this field. With those times behind, one can expect heralding of an era of collaborations and partnerships for nuclear industry.´

In the future, there could be new technologies of reactor design and associated components, manufacturing of components requiring different skills, processes and scale. It will also give a boost to the production of nuclear power generating capacities of domestic plants through import of uranium from suppliers world over, opening the nuclear sector in India to vast opportunities.

Nuclear Projects
The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) is responsible for design, construction, commissioning and operation of thermal nuclear power plants. At the start of 2010 it said it had enough cash on hand for 10,000 MWe of new plant.

However, it is aiming to involve other public sector and private corporations in future nuclear power expansion, notably NTPC. Though the 1962 Atomic Energy Act prohibits private control of nuclear power generation, allowing for minority investment, as of late 2010, the government had no intention of changing this to allow greater private equity in nuclear plants.

Besides this, in April 2015, AREVA and NPCIL signed a pre-engineering agreement for the Jaitapur project. Both teams are now jointly working towards preliminary assessment of licensability of EPR in India as per Indian regulations. Simultaneously, Areva also signed a MoU with Larsen & Toubro for localisation of the components which go into EPR reactor.

´This not only will contribute towards the Make in India mission, it will also improve the competitiveness of the project. Meanwhile, discussions with NCPIL continue to find different solutions to bring Jaitapur project to fruition,´ adds Gupta.

With the NPT behind, one can expect heralding of an era of collaborations and partnerships for nuclear industry. These could be new technologies of reactor design and associated components, manufacturing of components requiring different skills, processes and scale, new products such as fuel fabrication, collaborations in areas of research and development, opportunities for the Indian industry to work in third countries together with technology suppliers and many other such possibilities. Also, here R&D plays a critical role in the innovation process. It´s essentially an investment in technology and future capabilities which is transformed into new products, processes, services and ultimately economic and social development. There is constant innovation in how nuclear energy can be safer, economic and more efficient in the long term.

With the right level of innovation and R&D, the Indian nuclear industry can not only shape the future of the Indian nuclear projects but can also become a partner of choice internationally. India has indeed set up an ambitious goal for growth of the nuclear power capacity. Capacity addition to the tune of 40 GWe is targeted from the PWRs with Gen III technology.

´India has the technology for 700 MW plants and with availability of fuel, can embark on an ambitious plan to set up such plants. Our agreements with countries like US, France and Russia will pave the way,´ feels Shukla. Once in place, India can boast of the most advanced and efficient nuclear energy ecosystem. Albeit delayed, these technological achievements are encouraging.

State-of-the-art in Nuclear
The nuclear power industry has been developing and improving reactor technology for more than five decades and is starting to build the next generation of nuclear power reactors to fill new orders.

Improved designs of nuclear power reactors are constantly being developed internationally.
The first so-called Generation III advanced reactors have been operating in Japan since 1996. These have now evolved further.
Newer advanced reactors now being built have simpler designs which reduce capital cost. They are more fuel efficient and are inherently safer.
According to World Nuclear Association studies, several generations of reactors are commonly distinguished. Generation I reactors were developed in 1950-60s, and outside the UK none are still running today. Generation II reactors are typified by the present US and French fleets and most in operation elsewhere. So-called Generation III (and III+) are the advanced reactors discussed in this paper, though the distinction from Generation II is arbitrary. The first are in operation in Japan and others are under construction or ready to be ordered. Generation IV designs are still on the drawing board and will not be operational at the earliest.

Reactor suppliers in North America, Japan, Europe, Russia and elsewhere have a dozen new nuclear reactor designs at advanced stages of planning or under construction (seven designs), while others are at a research and development stage. Fourth-generation reactors are at R&D or concept stage.

The greatest exit from most designs now in operation is that many incorporate passive or inherent safety features which require no active controls or operational intervention to avoid accidents in the event of malfunction, and may rely on gravity, natural convection or resistance to high temperatures.

Nuclear liability
India´s 1962 Atomic Energy Act says nothing about liability or compensation in the event of an accident. Also, India is not a party to the relevant international nuclear liability conventions (the IAEA´s 1997 Amended Vienna Convention and 1997 Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage- CSC). Since all civil nuclear facilities are owned and must be majority-owned by the Central Government (NPCIL and BHAVINI, both public sector enterprises), the liability issues arising from these installations are its responsibility.

Says Gupta, ´It appears that some clauses are open to various interpretations. However, government has taken some measures to address the concerns of suppliers. Clarity is awaited on how the measures for technology suppliers will translate into economic and legal impact.

This is important to make progress quickly.´ ´Once the nagging issues pertaining to the CLNDA & Rules are addressed, we can expect a rapid expansion of nuclear power sector. India has been a very responsible developer of nuclear energy and as it is keen to integrate with other countries with advanced nuclear technology. We can trust that international conventions would be respected,´ adds Shukla.

While it is not possible to estimate the growth in orders or supply in last two years, the Indian government is making lot of efforts to improve the business and policy environment to provide boost to increase of nuclear energy share. India has already developed vast array of capabilities and a robust supply chain to meet the needs of the domestic nuclear sector. This makes it easier to a certain extent, to build upon the Indian industry´s existing strengths in supplying nuclear grade components/materials.

´Having said that, the EPR being a PWR type reactor with much different specifications and applicable codes and standards, sourcing and developing the components with Indian industry will require a detailed study to understand the gaps in terms of technical and investment needs and ways and means to fill the gap. Insurance pool framework has been now created by GOI to cover the damages due to a nuclear accident in India. However, the implementation details are yet unclear and awaited for technology suppliers like us,´ feels Gupta.

As a solution, she feels that a single ministry administering energy needs as against the current setup with commercial nuclear power being outside of the purview of Ministry of Power, in order to provide a more holistic view for growth of power sector, would be the way to go in the future.

Shukla meanwhile shed some light on the slowdown, ´All the orders for nuclear power generation equipment that we had won in 2010, have been executed way back by 2013. The next cycle of tendering has been languishing, as a solution to the concerns of industry due to the onerous Right of Recourse the operator can have under the CLNDA & Rules, is still work in progress. So, there have been no new orders released in the past four to five years.´

However, he did point out that in line with India´s vision of a 3 stage programme, work is underway for completing the FBR and developing technology for Advanced Heavy Water (Thorium) Reactors. While work is going on feverishly, being first of their kind developments they may be seen as taking time to come to fruition. ´We must acknowledge that these are advanced technologies and reliability and safety have to be of utmost concerns. Therefore the designs and prototypes undergo numerous screens and tests. Being right the first time far outweighs doing it fast and we must therefore give the designers, technologists, scientists their space and time,´ he ends.

- Jocelyn Fernandes

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