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The Future of Nuclear Power in India

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Indigenization of Technology and Developing New Technology/Energy


Source: TH

Context: There are doubts about whether nuclear power, with its associated concerns about cost and safety, remains a viable choice for India as solar and wind power gain popularity globally.


Global outlook for nuclear power:

  • In Europe and the U.S., nuclear power is seeing an upsurge, particularly after the Ukraine war.
  • The U.K. is scaling up nuclear power to decarbonise the electricity
  • Germany has shut down the last of its nuclear power plants, while France (the nuclear powerhouse of the world) is struggling to replace its ageing reactors.
  • China and South Korea have committed to increasing the share of nuclear power in the country’s energy mix (to 30% by 2030 in S. Korea).
  • Japan is restarting the shutdown of reactors after the Fukushima (accident) because it was otherwise dependent either on expensive imported coal/natural gas (LNG).


Advantages of nuclear power:

  • It is a low-carbon power.
    • A nuclear plant operating 1,000 MW at 90% PLF (plant load factor) requires only 25 tonnes of low-enriched (below 5% proportion of fissile uranium) uranium fuel per year.
    • A coal plant (of similar capacity) requires ~5 million tonnes of coal and coal produces ash containing many heavy metals detrimental to the water source.
  • Firm and dispatchable power. Firm power is the power that can be sent to the electric grid to be supplied whenever needed.
  • Low operating cost, job-intensive.


Disadvantages: High capital cost, low safety/prone to accidents, concerns over nuclear proliferation, not renewable energy, radioactive waste generation, etc.


India’s nuclear plan:


  • Nuclear power is only 2.5%-3.2% of India’s installed and generated power and is premised on working around its limited supply of enriched uranium.
  • This is expected to increase to 22.5 GW by 2031 from 6.9 GW now.


Why does India need more nuclear power?

  • Very limited growth potential for hydropower because of conserving biodiversity, the costs of rehabilitating and compensating landowners and the seismological factors in the Himalayas.
  • India has nearly 210 gigawatts of coal capacity, producing 73% of the electricity of India, which is not environmentally friendly.
  • Wind and solar powers are intermittent or variable.


Way ahead for India:

  • The nuclear industry should move towards ‘passive safety’ designs (for nuclear reactors). For example, active cooling pumps.
  • New designs like small modular reactors will address the cost issue.
  • Enforcing nuclear liability, for example, the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act 2010.
  • Ending the monopoly of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) in reactor operations. Allow other government companies like the NTPC.



  • If India hopes to achievenet zero’ by 2070, it needs ~100 GW of nuclear power by 2050.
  • Therefore, India should never consider phasing out nuclear power, which is a low carbon, firm and reliable.
  • India needs a portfolio of technologies to make nuclear power safe and cost-effective (capital cost) over time.


Insta Links:

Nuclear Technology


Mains Links:

Give an account of the growth and development of nuclear science and technology in India. What is the advantage of a fast breeder reactor programme in India? (UPSC 2019)


 Prelims Links: UPSC 2016

India is an important member of the  ‘International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor’. If this experiment succeeds, what is the immediate advantage for India?

  1. It can use thorium in place of uranium for power generation
  2. It can attain a global role in satellite navigation
  3. It can drastically improve the efficiency of its fission reactors in power generation
  4. It can build fusion reactors for power generation


Ans: 4