Department Of Atomic Energy Seeks Preferential Treatment To Ensure Energy Security
At a time when the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government is focusing on promoting solar energy to meet the country's energy needs, the Department of Atomic Energy is expecting preferential treatment from the Centre for the much-needed boost to the nuclear sector.
India currently has 22 nuclear reactors in operation in seven nuclear power plants, having a total installed capacity of 6,780 megawatts and has another 21 reactors in various stages of construction and development.
"Nuclear has to be complementary to solar and wind energy in the intermittent period till we get sustainable power from renewable energy resources and electrical storage becomes a cheaper option," Department of Atomic Energy Secretary KN Vyas told PTI on the sidelines of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre Foundation Day.
He said the nuclear power plants in the country are operating safely and are not affected by the vagaries of nature. "It is fine that the government is focusing on renewable energy, but then we need to understand that solar and wind plants, which are dependent on natural resources, have low plant load factor. In contrast, nuclear is more sustainable. We are only expecting the government to give us (nuclear sector) preferential treatment to ensure energy security," Vyas added.
Vyas, who is also the chairman of Atomic Energy Commission, noted that Tarapur Atomic Power Station units 1 and 2, which were connected to the grid in April and May in 1969, have completed 50 years of safe operation.
"After conducting necessary inspection and examination in terms of safety, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board has even extended the operating license of these plants, which are producing clean and reliable power at about Rs 2 per unit," he added.
When asked about the country's three-stage nuclear programme, Vyas said, "It's in process. There are challenges in this, however, I am confident that these can be overcome. A lot of efforts need to be put in designing, planning and overall execution of the projects to make optimum use of all the resources available."
India's three-stage nuclear power programme was formulated by Homi Bhabha in the 1950s for securing the country's long term energy independence, through the use of uranium and thorium reserves found in the monazite sands of coastal regions of south India. The ultimate focus of the programme is on enabling the thorium reserves of India to be utilised in meeting the country's energy requirements.
"The programme is very vital for ensuring utilisation of thorium which is available in abundance in India. Other countries do not consider this as a priority and therefore we must take a lead in technology development which is economically viable. Currently, we are pursuing it at the R&D stage. There are challenges but we have to make the fuel cycle viable," Vyas added.