Import of n-technology necessary for India’s energy security

July 20th, 2008 - 3:35 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 19 (IANS) If India did not import nuclear technology or fuel - that the US nuclear deal is expected to facilitate - then it could face an unmanageable deficit in electricity demand that could balloon to 412 giga watts (GWe) or 412 billion watts by 2050. By mid-21st century, the projected electricity demand is about 1250 GWe that will have to be met by increasing coal and oil imports. To bridge the gap of 412 GWe, the required coal import would be 1.6 billion tones in 2050.

But this chasm between supply and demand could be bridged if India started to imported Light Water Reactors (LWR) for just eight years from 2012 to 2020, as per a Department of Atomic Energy case study.

The LWRs with an installed capacity of 40 GWe may only meet a small portion of the demand, but the spent fuel from LWR will be used to launch Fast Breeder Reactors for the third stage of India’s nuclear programme.

This scenario projects the deficit gap will be relatively negligible at just 7 GWe in 2050.

But, if India delays the import of nuclear technology till later, then the deficit would be much higher.

The deficit is project at 178 tonnes, that could be met by importing 0.7 billion tonnes of coal.

India has a three stage nuclear programme, implemented by Department of Atomic Energy, which begins with construction of pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWR), whose spent fuel is reprocessed to obtain plutonium. Then, this plutonium is used to fuel Fast Breeder Reactors in the second stage. The third stage comprises of power reactors using Thorium as fuel.

India is currently constructing a 500 MW prototype fast breeder reactor.

As per the DAE studies, plutonium-based FBR will start electricity production around 2020 - the supply rising sharply before plateauing about 2045-50.

But around that period, India will finally be able to harness its enormous thorium reserves whose production is deemed to show a sharp upward curve to about 650 GWe at around 2060.

If thorium is introduced at the second stage of pressurized heavy water reactors, then the installed power capacity will not go beyond a certain peak of just 36 GWe, that will also be only be for a very short period.

DAE studies have shown that the right time to introduce thorium would be in the third decade after the launch of Fast Breeder Reactors. Once FBR reached 200GWe, thorium-based fuel should be introduced then.

If the safeguards agreement with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is signed, then international monitoring will be restricted to facilities that India identifies as civilian.

And only those safeguarded civilian facilities will have access to imported technology and fuel, with any international supply coming under safeguards automatically.

With demand for electricity growing faster than the supply, fast reactor bred fuel and converted spent fuel from would have to be a major source of energy. It is estimated that nuclear power thus generated would be competitive price-wise, compared to other available sources of energy.

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