Online Quiz Test

Is it advisable for India to phase off its nuclear energy?

GS 2 Government Policies & Interventions GS 3 Space Defence

In Context

  • It is uncertain whether nuclear power, with its concomitant cost and safety concerns, remains a viable option for a fossil-free future, particularly in India.

What is Nuclear Energy?

  • Nuclear energy is the source of energy located in the nucleus or core of an atom. Once extracted, this energy can be utilized to generate electricity through two types of atomic reactions: nuclear fusion and nuclear fission.
  • During fission, uranium used as a fuel causes atoms to divide into two or more nuclei. The energy released by fission causes a cooling agent, typically water, to boil.
  • The steam produced by boiling or pressurized water is then directed to rotate turbines in order to generate electricity.
  • Uranium is used as the fuel in nuclear reactors to produce fission.

Nuclear Power generation:

India’s Nuclear Power

  • India has 22 nuclear reactors and plans for over a dozen more. All extant reactors are managed by the state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL).
  • Nuclear power presently accounts for 3% of India’s total electricity production, and the current policy aims to triple nuclear installed capacity by 2032.
  • The current installed nuclear power capacity is projected to increase from 6,780 MW to 22,480 MW by 2031, due to the progressive completion and approval of projects currently under construction.

Global Scenario of Nuclear Power Generation

  • In the 1950s, the first commercial nuclear power plants began operations.
  • Approximately 440 nuclear power reactors provide about 10% of the world’s electricity.
  • Nuclear is the second greatest source of carbon-free energy in the world (26% of the total in 2020).
  • In addition to research, these reactors are also used to produce medical and industrial isotopes and for training.

Advantages of Nuclear Power

Efficient power supplier

  • Nuclear power has a higher energy density because it requires less fuel than coal or natural gas-based power plants.
  • It is particularly suited for space missions that cannot carry bulky cargo, making it difficult for them to flee the earth’s gravitational pull.

Co-existence with other power sources

  • Numerous nations argue that nuclear power would be a welcome addition to the balance because it is a stable, dispatchable energy source, whereas wind and solar are intermittent or variable.
  • Firm power is power that can be sent to the electric grid whenever it is required.

Efficiency of newer machines

  • Older designs required active cooling pumps, but the world now has systems that will progressively and gracefully control temperature, waste-heat, etc. even if the power fails.
  • Chernobyl, the most catastrophic disaster in history, was the result of a design that will never be repeated.

Advantage over coal-based thermal power plants:

 Lower emissions

  • India’s nuclear power sector saves 41 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually, compared to the emissions that would have been produced by coal-based thermal power facilities generating equivalent amounts of electricity.

 Ash Waste is a significant pollutant

  • Many power facilities in India have enormous ash ponds. In some instances, the ash pond is larger than the facility itself.
  • Ash contains numerous heavy metals that are detrimental to the water source.

Challenges :

Construction costs & delay

  • Construction of a nuclear power plant can be discouraging for interested parties. Conventional reactor designs are regarded as multibillion-dollar infrastructure undertakings.
  • High capital costs, licensing and regulatory approvals, as well as lengthy lead times and construction delays, have discouraged public interest.

Impact on the environment

  • Uranium mining has the greatest negative influence on the environment.
  • Batteries required for nuclear reactors are expensive and have an adverse effect on the environment.

Generation of radioactive waste

  • While nuclear energy generation produces no emissions, a byproduct of radioactive waste is generated.
  • The waste must be stored in secure facilities to prevent environmental contamination.
  • Small doses of radiation are harmless, but radioactive residue from nuclear power plants is hazardous.

Safety issue

  • Fears regarding safety, nuclear proliferation, or other concerns also motivate opposition to nuclear energy.

Global examples

  •  As part of a long-planned transition toward renewable energy, Germany has shut down its three remaining nuclear power facilities.
Law governing nuclear liability 

  • Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC):

·        In 1997, the Convention on Supplemental Compensation (CSC) was ratified with the intention of establishing a minimum national compensation amount.

·        If the national amount is insufficient to compensate for the damage caused by a nuclear incident, it can be increased through public funds (to be made available by the contracting parties).

 The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act (CLNDA) of India:

  • Although India was a CSC signatory, Parliament only ratified the convention in 2016.
  •  To comply with the international convention, India passed the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act (CLNDA) in 2010 to establish a swift compensation mechanism for nuclear accident victims.
  • The CLNDA imposes strict and no-fault liability on the operator of a nuclear power facility, meaning that the operator will be held liable for damages regardless of fault.
  • It guarantees the availability of compensation for victims of nuclear damage resulting from a nuclear incident or disaster and specifies who will be liable for such damages.

Way ahead

  • Nuclear power has numerous benefits and drawbacks, causing a contentious debate over whether to find alternatives or preserve the technology for future applications.
  • Nuclear energy can be a highly destructive weapon, but the likelihood of a nuclear disaster is relatively low.
  • It is crucial to remember that fossil fuels such as coal and oil pose a much greater threat and kill millions of people worldwide each year in silence.


Daily Mains Question

[Q] What are the benefits and difficulties of nuclear power generation? What is the mechanism for compensating nuclear catastrophe victims in India?