In Light of the Secrecy Surrounding India’s Nuclear Programme, the Decision to Build 12 More Reactors is Cause for Concern

14 April 2016
US President Barack Obama and other world leaders meet during the opening plenary session of the Nuclear Security Summit, on 1 April 2016, in Washington.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
US President Barack Obama and other world leaders meet during the opening plenary session of the Nuclear Security Summit, on 1 April 2016, in Washington.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Prime Minister Narendra Modi participated in a two-day long World Nuclear Summit in Washington on 1 April to promote and assess nuclear safety. Two days earlier, On 30 March, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, an Ohio-based think-tank, brought out a research paper, which stated that India’s plan to import 12 nuclear reactors from American equipment suppliers, was “fraught with financial and operational hazard.”

While perhaps not deliberate, the contrast was clear: as India discussed the dangers of a nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands at the summit, the report focused on the futility of India’s keenness to pursue civilian nuclear programmes.

The report, titled “Bad Choice: The Risks, Costs and Viability of Proposed U.S. Nuclear Reactors in India,” maintained that the power generated from these nuclear power plants, would be far more expensive than energy obtained from renewable solar resources. Authored by David Schissel, the institute’s director of resource planning analysis, the report posits concerns regarding the sustainability and utility of nuclear energy as it analyses India’s plan to build twelve nuclear reactors—six each at Mithi Virdi in Gujarat and Kovadda in Karnataka. The US-based nuclear power company Toshiba-Westinghouse is carrying out the first project, and the second one has been contracted to the nuclear services provider General Electric-Hitachi.

If built, the reactors will cost between Rs 6.3 lakh crore and Rs 11 lakh crore. Tariffs for the Kovvada project are estimated to range from Rs 15.85 to Rs 26.04 per kilowatt-hour. The corresponding numbers for the Mithi Virdi reactor are between Rs 9.05 and Rs 17.75 per kWh. The report contrasts this with the prices of solar electricity, which are expected to be around Rs 3 per kWh in 2032.

The report also goes on to stress that, along with the high capital costs of building the new power plants, there is the added concern of the reactor’s untested design. The report added that coupled with the cost, land acquisition, nuclear accident liability, this would ensure that cost and schedule overruns are “a near certainty.”

Vishwa Deepak Vishwa Deepak has worked for organisations such as Aaj Tak, the BBC, and Deutsche Welle (Germany). He joined Zee News in 2014 as a producer. He left the organisation a little over a year later.

Keywords: nuclear reactors nuclear energy kakrapar nuclear plant
COMMENT