The nuclear disaster caused by the recent tsunami at Japan's Fukushima atomic reactors has prompted India to draw up plans to tighten safety systems and invite International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) teams to carry out safety audits. Jaitapur (about 200 miles south of Bombay in Western India) is to site a proposed 9900 megawatt (MW) $10 bn nuclear plant with 6 reactors, potentially the world's largest. This has drawn violent protests and clashes from locals concerned about land acquisition and worries over safety issues following Japan's recent nuclear disaster. However the Indian Government stands committed, despite Japan's sad nuclear disaster, to increase nuclear capacity to help alleviate the chronic energy deficit in the country. India suffers from peak-hour power deficit of about 13% which holds back economic growth, especially in the manufacturing sector. Nearly 500m Indians or 40% of the 1.2 bn population (mainly in rural areas) lack electricity.
Currently India has 20 mainly small nuclear reactors at six sites with a capacity of 4,780 MW or only 3% of total power generated. Coal provides about 60% of energy supply, oil about 30% and other alternatives (wind/hydro) the balance. Presently India imports about 75% of its oil needs. Oil accounts for about 70% of energy requirements in India. With fossil fuel being a finite resource and having climate change implications, a growing economy like India aims to increase nuclear capacity to 20,000 MW by 2020 and over 60,000 MW by 2032. In order to address safety concerns of locals, the Indian Government has decided that each nuclear reactor in Jaitapur will have a stand-alone safety system. The proposed dedicated operating and maintenance system, it is hoped, will overcome Japan's experience at Fukushima of the domino effect caused by the failure of the first reactor.
Following French President Sarkozy's visit to India last December Areva (French state-owned firm) signed an agreement worth $10 bn to build in Jaitapur two of its next generation 1,650 MW reactors and supply reactor fuel for 25 years. Indian PM Dr Singh staked his political career on a nuclear deal that was finally signed with the U.S. in 2008 after much political footwork in India to convince opponents of the deal. The Indo-US deal ended India's nuclear isolation following its 1974 nuclear tests and official testing of an atomic device in the late 1990s. A $150 bn civilian nuclear market has now opened up in India. Foreign investors are keen to benefit from such a large new market.
David Fuller's view There is no way that India could fulfil its development potential, in my opinion, without the extensive use of nuclear power. While the location of reactors inevitably invokes NIMBY (not in my back yard) protests, health hazards will be considerably lower if there is a corresponding reduction in coal power stations and the domestic use of heating oil.Back to top