India needs to go Nuclear

India needs to go Nuclear

Context: Here we discuss the need for an expansion of nuclear energy in emerging economies, especially India and proposes a strategy for the same.

What is Nuclear energy?
• Nuclear energy is the energy stored within the nucleus of an atom. Atoms are tiny units that make up all matter in the universe, and energy is what holds the nucleus together. There is a huge amount of energy in an atom’s dense nucleus.
• There are 2 primary methods of harnessing nuclear energy – Nuclear Fission and Nuclear Fusion.

Need for Nuclear Energy:
• Rising Energy Demand: The total clean energy requirement to support a developed India would work out to around more than 4 times our present energy consumption.
• Impact on Climate: Most of this energy consumption will be based on fossil energy, which is a major contributor to global warming. Considering this, there is now a global consensus to reach net-zero.
• Failure to tackle this dual challenge would mean either compromising on development or failing to realise the net-zero target or both.
• Thus it becomes vital for a rapid scale-up of nuclear energy. It is the cleanest and safest of energies, with negligible waste due to a closed nuclear fuel cycle.
• Based on a study by Vivekananda International Foundation and IIT-Bombay, a developed India would need 2000 GW nuclear energy to reach net-zero.

What strategy should India follow?
• Increased number of the indigenous Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) should be implemented leveraging multiple PSUs in addition to NPCIL.
• Indigenous Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) should be built at sites that would be vacated by retiring coal plants.
• Smaller PHWR units can be offered as partially-owned captive units for energy-intensive industries such as metals, chemicals, and fertilizers.
• Reactors for direct hydrogen production without electrolysis should be developed for cheaper green hydrogen.
• 2nd and 3rd stage nuclear-power programme should be sped up to utilize India’s Thorium.

Way Forward
• India’s PHWRs are globally competitive both in terms of performance and capital cost. Thorium fuel in PHWR can make these reactors even more attractive in terms of economics, safety, waste management and proliferation resistance.
• Our nuclear energy programme should be guided by bold policy support that provides a level-playing field for nuclear energy on par with renewable energy.
• Emerging-economy countries, where one expects maximum net growth in energy consumption, should see rapid deployment of new nuclear-energy capacity to address climate-change.

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