Nuclear facilities unaffected by Covid, running smoothly
The Covid-19 crisis, which has affected almost all arms of the country, has reportedly spared its nuclear establishment. Officials at the department of atomic energy told TOI on Wednesday that its 22 nuclear power plants were functioning normally across the country.
“The engineers and scientists were working in shifts and social distancing norms are being followed,” an official said, adding that these units were located in zones that are not crowded. They said that the Dhruva research reactor (India’s largest nuclear research reactor) at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Trombay was also operating normally.
They said Dhruva cannot be shut down because it makes isotopes and also, this reactor is related to the defence sector. “BARC has been declared an essential service,” an official said
New Delhi is banking on nuclear, but will it succeed?
India’s energy deficit and the success of the country’s climate action policies are important factors to consider in the push for greater commitment to the nuclear energy sector and international alliance building. Given India’s ever-growing energy demand, the pressure is on New Delhi to strike a balance between economic growth and adhering to the requirements of the Paris Agreement.
At present, India’s primary energy source is coal, but the country’s coal reserves are rapidly declining. These two factors make coal use unsustainable in the long run, necessitating a shift towards more reliable and long-term energy supplies. At the same time, nuclear energy contributes merely 2% to India’s total energy requirements. As of March 2020, India has 22 operable reactors, with 7 more under construction.
The opportunities to expand this sector through international agreements are therefore abundant. Although the government allowed private enterprises to provide nuclear power, the engagement between NPCIL and the private sector has been scant.
It is of paramount importance that policymakers delve deeper into engagements with key stakeholders in the civil nuclear energy sector. A better relationship and deeper engagement between the public and the private sector in nuclear energy would substantially and expeditiously improve India’s capacity to produce nuclear power, as well as develop and improve upon the country’s indigenous personnel and expertise.