Strong need and challenge for nuclear energy in India – Dr. M R Srinivasan

Written by Zaf Coelho. Posted in Uncategorized

A keynote speaker for the upcoming India Nuclear Business Platform (INBP) is Dr. M R Srinivasan who is a considered the doyen of the Indian nuclear establishment. Dr. Srinivasan provides his personal insights on several key matters pertaining to the Indian nuclear power programme.

Strong need and challenge for nuclear energy in India

According to Dr. Srinivasan, India requires nuclear energy to overcome its large developmental deficit. Lamenting that nuclear power formed only three per cent of India’s electricity generation, he said: “in our view by 2050 we should have a much larger nuclear component, may be 30 per cent to 40 per cent of the overall electricity capacity,” he said, adding, “We think there is a scope for India to substantially increase nuclear power.”

“Indigenous manufacturing of major components and ensuring a strong participation from the domestic industry are the major challenges before the Indian nuclear power programme now. For a large nuclear power capacity to be built in a country like India, it is very important to have major components made within the country. Otherwise economics will be not so good,” Dr. Srinivasan remarked with regards to supply chain matters.

Current developments in India

The Government of India decided to build ten India designed 700 MW Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors in June 2017. The Nuclear Power Corporation had scaled up the 540 MW size units to 700 MW and started work, two at Kakrapara (Units 3 and 4) and two at Rajasthan (Units 7 and 8). This is one of the biggest single commitments in nuclear power, after the Fukushima accident of 2011. This programme will provide Indian industry with sustained workload for a period of a decade and establish India firmly as an important player in this field.

Work has commenced on Units 3, 4, 5, and 6 at Kudankulam. Russia has offered to build six 1200 MW units at a second site to be identified by India. As a parallel activity, India has designed the ‘Indian Pressurised Water Reactor’ of 900 MW capacity, using enriched uranium as fuel. Work on two such units may be taken up soon, to be followed thereafter by series building. At Kalpakkam, the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor of 500 MW is in the process of commission. Two reactors of 600 MW of similar design may follow. The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre has completed the design of a 300 MW reactor called ‘Advanced Thermal Reactor’ which would use thorium. Our long-term plans to use thorium depend on fast reactors and thorium-based systems.

By about 2025 or so, India may itself supply enriched uranium from its own enrichment facilities. The government’s push for 10 IPWRs will secure India a position of nuclear power plant supplier not only for application in India, but also as a potential exporter. While our earlier plans on expanding nuclear power have not materialised, the alternative plan suggested now, which envisages building 28 units with a total capacity of about 25,000 MW in 15 years from now, can still ensure that nuclear power remains an important part of our strategy to minimise carbon emissions in the long run.

Profile of Dr. M R Srinivasan

Dr. M R Srinivasan is a Member & former Chairman of the India Atomic Energy Commission. In 2015, Dr. Srinivasan was chosen by the Government of India for the Padma Vibhushan award. Dr. Srinivasan played a key role in designing the Indian Nuclear Power Programme and the development of the indigenous Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor. The Padma Vibhushan is the second-highest civilian award of the Republic of India. The award is given for “exceptional and distinguished service”.

Dr. Srinivasan joined the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) in September 1955, he worked with Dr. Homi Bhabha on construction of India’s first nuclear research reactor, Apsara which went critical in August 1956. In August, 1959, Dr. Srinivasan was appointed as Principal Project Engineer in the construction of India’s first atomic power station. Following this, in 1967, Dr. Srinivasan was appointed as Chief Project Engineer at the Madras Atomic Power Station.

In 1974, Dr. Srinivasan was appointed Director, Power Projects Engineering Division, DAE and then Chairman, Nuclear Power Board, DAE in 1984; in these capacities, he was responsible for planning, execution, and operation, of all nuclear power projects in the country.

In 1987, he was appointed Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission and Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy, with responsibility for all aspects of the Indian Nuclear Program. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) was created in September 1987, with Dr. Srinivasan as the Founder-Chairman, he has been responsible for a total of 18 nuclear power units, of which seven are in operation, another seven under construction, and four still in the planning stages.