PM Modi’s ‘desi’ nuclear power push as China continues to block NSG entry: What it means for India

Modi government has decided to set up 10 ‘indigenous’ Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR).

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi visiting the Narmada Temple & Udgam Sthal, in Amarkantak on Monday. (PTI Photo)

As China continues to block India’s entry to the coveted Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG), Modi government has decided to set up 10 ‘indigenous’ Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR). The decision taken by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday is expected to fast-track India’s domestic nuclear power programme, and give a push to the country’s nuclear industry.

It should be recalled here that India had been trying to buy six nuclear reactors from a US-based company but can’t make a big move on the deal because of Chinese reservations to India’s entry to the NSG, which would have ensured uninterrupted supply of nuclear fuels for the reactors. Even Russia and France have not been able to convince China to drop its opposition to India’s entry into the NSG.

According to a Cabinet release on Wednesday, the total installed capacity of the 10 PHWR plants would be 7000 MW, resulting in a significant augmentation of nuclear power generation capacity within the country.

At present, the total installed nuclear power capacity in the country is of 6780 MW from 22 operational plants. Another 6700 MWs of nuclear power is expected to come onstream by 2021-22 through several under-construction projects. A PHWR uses natural Uranium as fuel and heavy water as both moderator and coolant. The natural Uranium for these reactors can be sourced from Tummallapalla in Kadapa, Andhra Pradesh.

According to the release, the 10 PHWR units would come up in a fleet mode as a fully indigenous initiative and be one of the flagships ‘Make in India’ projects in the nuclear energy sector. This will also give manufacturing orders to the tune of Rs 70,000 crores to the domestic industry and create over 33,400 jobs in direct and indirect employment.

The government decision to set up these plants can be seen as a move to improve India’s dependence on clean energy. Moreover, it is also expected to transform India’s nuclear industry by linking nuclear power sector with the indigenous industrial capacities in high-end technologies. The orders to domestic industry would also help strengthen India’s credentials as a major nuclear-manufacturing nation.

The release says that the 10 reactors would be part of India’s latest design of 700 MW PHWR fleet, which has been developed with “state-of-art technology meeting the highest standards of safety.”

India has built and operated PHWR reactors for the last forty years and its record is globally acclaimed. “It (the decision) underscores the mastery our nuclear scientists have attained over all aspects of indigenous PHWR technology. India’s record of building and operating PHWR reactors over the last nearly forty years is globally acclaimed.”

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