[Answered] Discuss the role of nuclear power in India’s energy basket. What are the challenges and opportunities associated with increasing the share of nuclear power? (15 marks)

Introduction: Give brief introduction about nuclear energy and its status in India.
Body: Highlight the opportunities and challenges associated with nuclear power.
Conclusion: Conclude the answer by giving suggestions for increasing the share of nuclear power.

Nuclear power in India is fifth largest source of power generation in India which contributes nearly 3% of the total power generation in the country. However, it has played significant role in energy security and power generation in India. It is also a clean and reliable, uninterrupted source of energy compared to energy from fossil fuels. India has 22 nuclear reactors in operation in 8 nuclear plants with total installed capacity of 7380 MW.

What are the opportunities associated with nuclear power?

  • Import Dependency: Nuclear power can reduce dependence on fossil fuel imports. This will lead to a lessening of import bills and reduce vulnerability to price fluctuations in the energy market.
  • Helpful in meeting global commitments: It is currently the only carbon free source of electricity which will help India to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. This will lead to India fulfilling its “Panchamrit” pledge to reach net-zero carbon emission by 2070. Nuclear energy can help India achieve its commitments to Sustainable Development Goal of affordable and clean energy (Goal 7).
  • Innovation and research: India is moving towards technological advancements in field of nuclear energy by setting up small modular reactors (SMRs) which are nuclear power reactors of 100 to 300 megawatt (Mw). These SMR’s are relatively small in size, easier to build and operate and are safe in operations.
  • Joint collaboration: NTPC has collaborated with NPCIL to develop two nuclear power plants in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. NTPC is aiming to produce 2,000 Mw of nuclear power by 2032, 4,200 Mw by 2035 and 20,000 Mw by 2050.
  • Job opportunities: nuclear energy will help in generating job opportunities for people in power plants during construction as well as operational phases.

What are the challenges of nuclear power?   

  • Disaster risk: There is general perception among the public regarding safety of nuclear power after incidents like Fukushima and Chernobyl.
  • Energy cost: Nuclear power cost (Rs 7.5/unit) is also high compared to solar energy cost (Rs. 3/ unit). There is also a high cost in the construction of nuclear plants.
  • International agreement: nuclear agreements with many countries especially USA has not yielded desired results with foreign countries raising concerns regarding liability and tort laws in India.
  • Nuclear waste management: The waste is harmful to the environment and health of people. There is a large amount of steel and cement needed to develop nuclear plants which will lead to an increase in pollution.
  • Limited reserves:India has limited domestic Uranium reserves and is dependent on other nations for nuclear fuel.
  • Difference of opinion: The world is divided among pro and anti-nuclear power lobbies which often leads to policy paralysis regarding nuclear energy as seen in Kudankulam Nuclear plant.


India needs to focus on addressing these challenges, enhance public awareness and strengthen safety mechanism regarding nuclear power.

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