The government of India is promoting nuclear energy as a solution to the country’s future energy needs and is embarking on a massive nuclear energy expansion




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Introduction


The government of India is promoting nuclear energy as a solution to the country’s future energy needs and is embarking on a massive nuclear energy expansion program. It expects to have 20,000 MW nuclear power capacity online by 2020 and 63,000 MW by 2032. The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has projected that India would have an astounding 275 GW (1 GW = 1000 MW) of nuclear power capacity by 2050, which is expected to be 20 percent of India’s total projected electricity generation capacity by then. With the signing of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal opening up the possibility of uranium and nuclear reactor imports, the Prime Minister stated in September 2009 that India could have an even more amazing 470 GW of nuclear capacity by 2050.1

This would be a quantum leap from the present scenario. As of September 30, 2011, the total installed power generation capacity in the country was 182,345 MW. Of this, the contribution of nuclear power—more than sixty years after India’s atomic energy program was established—was just 4780 MW, or 2.62% of the total. Thus, the projected capacity in 2050 would represent an increase by a factor of over a hundred.

The government is seriously trying to implement this plan. It has given 'in principle' approval to setting up a string of giant size 'nuclear parks' all along India's coastline, each having 6-8 reactors of between 1000 to 1650 MW—Mithivirdi in Gujarat, Jaitapur in Maharashtra, Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu, Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh and Haripur in West Bengal. It is also proposing to set up 4 indigenous reactors of 700 MW each at Gorakhpur in Haryana, and another 2 similar reactors at Chutka in Madhya Pradesh. To meet the fuel needs of these plants, it is proposing to set up several new uranium mining projects in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Meghalaya.

Justifying this huge push for nuclear energy, India’s politicians, nuclear scientists and other leading intellectuals are claiming that nuclear energy is safe, green and cheap. This propaganda campaign is being led from the front by the Prime Minister himself. Some of his most recent quotes:

  • Tarapur, August 31, 2007: “(Since) our proven reserves of coal, oil, gas and hydro-power are totally insufficient to meet our requirements (and) the energy we generate has to be affordable, not only in terms of its financial cost, but in terms of the cost to our environment”, this was the reason why “we place so much importance on nuclear energy.”2

  • At the Nuclear Security Summit, Washington, DC, April 13, 2010: “Today, nuclear energy has emerged as a viable source of energy to meet the growing needs of the world in a manner that is environmentally sustainable. There is a real prospect for nuclear technology to address the developmental challenges of our times ... The nuclear industry’s safety record over the last few years has been encouraging. It has helped to restore public faith in nuclear power.”3

Following the Fukushima accident, several countries put a pause or began phasing out their nuclear energy programs. However, the Indian Prime Minister has repeatedly asserted that India's nuclear expansion program will not be affected by the Fukushima accident. According to him, India's nuclear plants were world-class, our safety standards were unmatched, and that a Fukushima-type accident cannot happen in India (speech at the Nuclear Security Summit, Seoul, March 27, 2012).4

We examine these claims in this booklet. But before that, let us first discuss the basics of nuclear energy.

1. What is Nuclear Energy?

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