With the US offering nuclear power plants to India, experts believe that there should be no ‘attrition’ of India’s indigenous nuclear programme.
The US was instrumental in getting India out of its nuclear isolation with the 2008 civil nuclear deal. India is, however, still to sign a final deal for planned six nuclear reactors with US-based Westinghouse Electric Co. which in 2017 had filed for bankruptcy before it was acquired by Brookfield Business Partners in 2018.
It is expected that a pact would be signed between Westinghouse and state-run Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd, or NPCIL, during US President Donald Trump’s visit.
“We need nuclear power as a non-fossil fuel energy. As a baseload source of power, it is cleaner than coal-fired electricity. China is adding a large nuclear capacity as baseload to balance their large and growing renewable energy portfolio," said Anil Razdan, India’s former power secretary.
Given India plans to add 175 gigawatts of renewable energy from infirm sources such as wind and the sun, the nuclear projects should help provide the baseload to balance the power grid. Besides partnering with India in research and development and advanced nuclear technology, the US has offered nuclear power plants in three sizes—small modular, micro, and bigger plants of at least one-gigawatt capacity.
This comes against the backdrop of the National Democratic Alliance government exploring the supply of small nuclear power reactors to power-starved countries in Africa. Also, Russia’s Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corp. is interested in partnering with Indian companies to work on small- and medium-sized nuclear reactors, Mint reported on 8 November.
India has 22 commercial nuclear power reactors with an installed capacity of 6,780MW, which are run by NPCIL.
Its nuclear energy plans include building a dozen nuclear power reactors totalling 9,000 megawatts (MW). While nine reactors totalling 6,700MW is under construction, the Centre has also given in-principle approval to build nuclear capacities totalling 25,248MW in five locations.
“The Indian nuclear equipment manufacturing industry needs indigenous reactors for its own sustenance," said Razdan. Interestingly, since India and the US signed the historic civil nuclear cooperation deal on 10 October 2008, India hasn’t been able to add any nuclear power generation capacity. “Without the US, we couldn’t have got fuel for our nuclear reactors," said an Indian government official requesting anonymity.