Nuclear Power, India's Future Energy Resource

"The Treasure Hunt".Yes, God has given man a great treasure which man has to find out him self and use. At last man has succeeded in finding out "The Treasure", and has now slowly started using it. The Treasure which he discovered is the nuclear power, (the tremendous energy) which was hid deep inside the nucleus of the atom. He can convert this treasure into any form of energy which is a wonder. The only condition is that he should use it properly and should not waste it because it's wastage may cause irreparable damage. God trusted man and gave him this magical power. So he has to be responsible and should be careful while using it.
The group of people who are helping others in using this energy are the scientists of DAE. When nuclear Energy has been successfully applied for power production, in a couple of decades from now, India will not have to look abroad for its exports but will find them ready at hand." These echoing words of the great architect Homi J Babha is coming true. We can be proud to be Indians. Kudos to the scientists of DAE who have found out the first safe Nuclear Reactor in the world. At this glorious moment let us highlight the achievements of DAE.

To harness the atomic energy for peaceful purposes,the Department of Atomic Energy was formed in 1954.Since then ,it is engaged in the development of nuclear power technology and applications of the radiation technologies in the field of agriculture, medicine industry and basic research. The Department is now an integrated group of organizations comprising of five research centers, three industrial organizations ,four public sector undertakings and three service organizations. It has two boards that promote extra mural activities by way of financial support and research in nuclear and allied fields and mathematics. It supports even institutes of International repute engaged in Research in basic sciences- astronomy, astrophysics, cancer research and education etc.

Within a decade of launching it's atomic energy programmes, India became one among the top ten advanced countries in this new and complex technology.In 1956 the country achieved the distinction of commissioning Asia's first Research Reactor "Apsara".

With the confidence gained from this achievement Dr.Bhabha drew up a three stage long term nuclear power programme for India. The objective was that Nuclear Power development should reach a level such that power from nuclear energy should contribute significantly to the electrical needs for Industrial and agricultural growth of the country.

In the short span of a decade India had established comprehensive R&D facilities for the entire nuclear fuel cycle- right from prospecting, mining and processing of Uranium, fabrication of spent fuel, fast breeder reactors using plutonium based fuel to radioactive waste management and health and safety. India has also developed the technology of radioisotopes and their utilization in agriculture , machine and industry.

Even though the great architect is not with us his words are becoming a living truth.

DEMAND OF ELECTRICITY IN INDIA
(PRESENT AND FUTURE)

Availability of required amount of electricity is a necessity for a developing country like India. This has to be done in a manner that is sustainable and is based on diverse fuel sources and technology and provides long term energy security. This implies that we have to examine all fuel resources in the country and tap them keeping short ,medium and long term scenarios in perspective. Hydro potential and renewables must be exploited to the maximum possible extent but to meet long term requirement it is necessary to exploit nuclear resources.

Only in 1950s did attention turn to nuclear power for electricity generation. India is in a unique situation with modest uranium and vast thorium resources .Our nuclear programmes are planned taking this in to consideration. It is expected that annual electricity generation would increase from about 638TWh in year 2002-2003 to 7957TWh in the year 2052 to 2053.The growth rate of electricity has been substantially higher than that of any other form of energy. India is a developing country and due to the rising population demand for electricity is more and so there is always a shortage of electricity.

VARIOUS OPTIONS AND INEVITABILITY
OF NUCLEAR POWER IN TERMS OF RESOURCE
POSITION,COST COMPARISONS ETC.

Nuclear fuel contains energy in a concentrated form thus requiring much less tonnage for fuel to be transported or stored. The overall cost of electricity generated from nuclear fuel is much smaller when compared to other components. In addition spent fuel is a resource for fuel to be used in fast breeder reactors. Further the fuel discharged from nuclear reactors also contain fossil components and can be recovered by reprocessing and recycling preferably in FBRs thereby further multiplying the fossil material.
The growth of nuclear power in India demands more resources. So there is a persisting need for developing robust techniques for both front end and back end of the fuel cycle and also for the economic and efficient extraction of uranium from lean sources. Considering the low grade of uranium ore, low tonnage of some deposits, difficult terrain of some of the locations having rich deposits ,it is challenging to speed up the uranium production.

Atomic minerals Directorate for exploration and Research has identified as many as 14 middle Proterozoic basin in India which can host un-confirmity type deposits. Such deposits are of high grade, have large tonnage deposits and are concealed without any surface manifestation. Exploration needs to be stepped up to locate new deposits including those concealed deep in the earth. The projection about energy requirements beyond five decades and indigenous energy resources indicate a large gap between them. To bridge the gap we have to accelerate the work on thorium. Technology should be developed to extract lean Uranium. Uranium from phosphoric acid is a good option. Monazite sand, IREL and sea Technology should be pursued. New potential Heavy zones are present even in coastal tracks of Jagat Singh Pur districts in Orissa.

WORLD STATUS OF NUCLEAR POWER

Nuclear Power is a saviour to mankind. Man needs energy for developing his environment and himself. He can get it from Nuclear Power. Nuclear Power is the energy released by splitting of certain atoms.
The first commercial nuclear power station was started in 1950s.There are some 440 commercial power reactors operating in 31 countries with over 3,64,000MWe of the total capacity and they supply 16% of the world's electricity, as base load power and their efficiency is increasing. 56 countries operate a total of 284 research reactors and a further 220 reactor power ships and submarines. Today the world produces as much electricity from nuclear energy as it did from all sources combined in1960. 17 countries depend on nuclear power for at least a quarter of their electricity needs. Today only eight countries are known to have nuclear weapons capability. In contrast 56 operate civil research reactors.

CONTRIBUTIONS OF RESEARCH REACTORS FOR
TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT

Research reactors have many uses including research and the production of medical and industrial isotopes as well as for training. Radiation technologies application programme and other advanced technologies is as important as nuclear power programmes because of its societal relevance. It has many components, the main being the technologies for the production of radiation and the technologies for their application. Radiation can be produced either from radio isotopes or from accelerators. Therefore for the production of radiation one has to develop research reactors and accelerators.

Another technology being pursued by DAE is "Lasers and their applications". DAE has developed and is developing research reactors, accelerators, lasers and other advanced technologies. Application areas of radiation technologies include health-care, agriculture, food preservation, water resources and research. Parallel to the nuclear programmes ,the applications of radiation technologies have made constant progress in India.

PRESENT STATUS AND FUTURE PLANS OF THE INDIAN
NUCLEAR POWER PROGRAMME

Our nuclear programmes in many ways is unique. It encompasses the complete range of activities that characterize an advanced nuclear power including generation of electricity and advanced research and development. Our scientists have mastered the complete nuclear fuel cycle. The manner of development of our programme which has been envisaged is predicted on our modest uranium resources and vast reserves of thorium.

We remain committed to the three stage nuclear power programme, consisting of Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors(PHWR) in the first stage, fast breeder reactors in the second stage and thorium reactors in the third stage. Our scientists have done excellent work and we are progressing well.

A committee was set up by the DAE which has recommended planning of the activities of the DAE to attain a total nuclear installed capacity of about 20,000MWe by the year 2020.These plans have been further fine tuned by the internal working Group (power) set up by DAE for the formation of the five year plan.Capacity addition upto the year 2020 includes several 220MWe PHWRs,540MWe PHWRs,1000MWe LWRs and 800 MWe FBRs. All the activities will be taken up to meet the requirement of the power programmes.

INDIA'S 3-STAGE NUCLEAR POWER PROGRAMME

Accessing the resource position and facilities Dr.Homi Babha designed our 3-stage Nuclear Power Programme.

• The First stage comprises setting up of pressurized heavy water reactors and associated fuel cycle facilities is already in the industrial domain. The technology for manufacturing various components and equipment for PHWRs in India is well established and has evolved through active collaboration between DAE and the industry. As DAE gains experience and masters various aspects of the nuclear technology, performance of nuclear power plants is continuously improving.

• The Second stage envisages setting up of fast breeder reactors backed by reprocessing plants and plutonium based fuel fabrication plants. In order to expand the nuclear capacity in the country fast breeder reactors are necessary.

• The third stage will be based on the thorium -uranium 233 cycle.Uranium233 is obtained by irradiation of thorium in PHWRs and FBRs. An advanced Heavy Water Reactor is developed in BARC. So technologies pertaining to utilization of thorium have been under development.
Indian power plants can definitely achieve these goals and India can become self sufficient in Nuclear Power.

DAE's CAPABILITY IN THE NUCLEAR FUEL CYCLE

The nuclear power programme has a number of ancillary operations which form a part of the nuclear fuel cycle. The front end of the cycle includes mineral exploration, mining, milling , processing of ore and fabrication of fuel .Back end of the cycle covers reprocessing of depleted uranium fuel, and management of nuclear waste. India has acquired comprehensive capability in the PHWR design, construction and operation of associated plants facilities covering the entire nuclear fuel cycle of the nuclear power programme based on PHWR.

Self sufficiency has been achieved in the production of heavy water. Besides meeting the domestic demands tones of heavy water is exported to South Korea. The performance and safety of all the operating heavy water plants have remained excellent. The cumulative production achieved by the plants is surpassing the scheduled targets and due to conservation methods consumption has reduced a lot.

The Board also has an energy efficient ammonia-water Front End Technology to delink ammonia based heavy water from the fertilizer plants.It is a heavy water upgrading facility for use on commercial scale which employs indigeneously developed lower internals in vacuum distillation columns. Fuel processing is mainly done in the Back End of the Nuclear fuel cycle.

The Indian Nuclear power programme is based on a closed cycle approach that involves reprocessing of spent fuel and recycle of plutonium239 and Uranium233 for power generation. DAE has a pilot plant for reprocessing at Trombay for the development of fuel processing technology and industry scale plant at Tarapur and Kalpakkam. The plant at Trombay processes spent fuel from research reactors and the other two plants process spent fuel from power reactors. Robotics and automation are very important for all activities of the fuel cycle and several other programmes such as maintenance of nuclear reactors.

NUCLEAR WASTE MANAGEMENT

Radioactive wastes generated at various stages of nuclear fuel cycle are categorized as low , intermediate and high level wastes. The plants for management of all types of radioactive waste have been in operation in many nuclear facilities. The low and medium level radio active wastes are treated in eco friendly ways. The high level waste generated in small quantities are fixed in glass matrix vitrification. It a complete technology possessed by a few nations only and it has been successfully developed at Trombay. Based on this technology two waste immobilization plants are operating in Tarapur and Trombay. A similar plant is at Kalpakkam. After 30 years vitrified waste will be disposed off.

Advanced oxidation process including wet air oxidation, photochemical oxidation, super critical water oxidation etc on an industrial scale need to be developed. Development of specific sorbents and magnetic assisted separations will have a key role to play in future waste management plants. Recovery of zirconium from hulls is highly desirable. Management of waste from pyrochemical will be developed. Overall strategy has to be to ensure that uranium and plutonium are recovered and recycled . Adoption of membrane based technologies such as reverse osmosis, bio separation and ultra filtration techniques should be encouraged.
The highest priority is to develop new technologies to enhance performance and minimize waste leading to a very low impact on the environment.

SAFETY IN NUCLEAR REACTORS AND
ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

The safety performance of atomic power stations continue to be excellent. The radio active releases to the environment is much below the prescribed limit. The emergency Preparedness system in the nuclear plants is updated. In almost all nuclear power stations the Environmental management systems was implemented in line with ISO 14001. Environment around the nuclear sites are well conserved. Many nuclear power stations have bagged the AERB Green Site Award. At the low level radiation Research laboratory Kollam, Kerala research on the health and biological effects of continuous natural radiation on human population are continuing.

An independent body, The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board monitors safety. The safety standards formulated by AERB are on par with those recommended. The safety operations through the entire nuclear fuel cycle, from prospecting and mining of ores to management of waste encompass all aspects of safety viz. radiological safety, industrial safety and environmental protection. In all the nuclear installations care is taken to protect operating personnel, public and environment.

It is a matter of pride for our country that NPCILis a member of the world association of nuclear operation(WANO).Indian experts have participated in the peer reviews of the atomic power plants in Japan and many other countries. Indian scientists are members of the International Safety Advisory Grant and IAE which prepare the safety codes and standards.

Safety surveillance inspection are regularly carried out and comprehensive emergency preparedness and response plans to handle postulated emergency scenarios are inaction at DAE. Environmental radiation monitoring and environmental surveillance are the regular features of the Environmenal protection programme of DAE. Full protection of the environment and people is the prime concern of DAE.

PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS ABOUT NUCLEAR ENERGY

There is a need to launch public awareness programmes to explain all aspects of nuclear technology, particularly to remove fears related to nuclear radiation, waste management and safety issues.
People in general have a strong unknown fear in their mind about nuclear power and radiations. This explains why people prefer to live as far as possible from the nuclear power plants.
People treat Nuclear energy as a "rich and powerful man who donates money" even though they admire his money the are scared to be close to him. Similarly people want the energy given by nuclear power but they don't want to be near it.
It is the responsibility of the educated to make the people understand that"Nuclear Energy "is the Saviour of mankind.

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