India to become a world leader in nuclear technology
29 February 2012
India has a vision of becoming a world leader in nuclear technology, making use of its vast expertise in fast reactors and thorium fuel cycle. And it also has the potential to be a global manufacturing hub for nuclear power industry.
These views were expressed by India’s two top scientific officials -- Dr. V. K. Saraswat, Special Advisor to the Defence Minister & Director General, DRDO, and Dr. R. B. Grover, Principal Adviser-DAE & Member-AEC -- during a workshop on "India as a new Nuclear Supplier", organised by Observer Research Foundation and the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS, USA) in New Delhi on 23 and 24 February 2012.
Dr. Saraswat’s keynote address at the workshop dinner on February 23 was read out in absentia as he could not attend it due to an unavoidable emergency. Dr. Saraswat said India has a bright future as new nuclear supplier. He said NTPC, BHEL, NALCO, IOC, ONGC, SAIL & Indian Railways have also joined hands with NPCIL for setting up nuclear power projects.
Dr. Saraswat pointed out that in India, nuclear power for civil use is well established and that its civil nuclear strategy has been directed towards complete independence in the nuclear fuel cycle, which is necessary because it is excluded from the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) due to it acquiring nuclear weapons capability after 1970.
Dr. Saraswat said that safety being a major concern after the Fukushima accident in March 2011, four NPCIL taskforces have evaluated the situation in India and in an interim report in July made recommendations for safety improvements of the Tarapur BWRs and each PHWR type.
Dr. R. B. Grover, in his inaugural address on 24 February, deliberated upon National Framework for Governance of Nuclear Power and threw light on National Acts, Rules and Notifications & Resolutions and also legal framework arising from International obligations such as international conventions, agreements and treaties to which India is a party.
Dr. Grover said that nuclear is one option which needs to be pursued vigorously. However, he pointed out that, uranium reserves in India are also very modest. He also explained that India has a very good R&D infrastructure in nuclear science and engineering, a sound knowledge base, competent human resource and wide ranging industrial infrastructure. He said Indian industry is known for frugal engineering. Dr. Grover said India has the potential to be a global manufacturing hub for nuclear power industry.
The panelists, however, expressed mixed views regarding India’s future as a nuclear supplier. Some were very optimistic while some were less so. Participants from the US did not deny that India has the potential to rise as nuclear supplier, but they pointed out that India may have to learn some lessons from their country. They also said that the countries which are expanding its nuclear energy plans rapidly might also increase the chances of accidents which would be very dangerous.
Mr. Steve Kidd, Deputy Director General, World Nuclear Association, is highly optimistic. He is of the view that India can be a new nuclear supplier. Ms. Sharon Squassoni, Director, CSIS, USA, explained an approach for a responsible nuclear supplier after Fukushima whereas Mr. Mike Wallace, Sr. Advisor, CSIS, USA, threw some light on the US nuclear industry objectives after Fukushima. Dr. G. Balachandran, Visiting Fellow, IDSA and Mr. Nikhil Desai, Energy Economist, were not convinced about the prospect of India becoming nuclear supplier. Mr. Venkatesh Varma, Joint Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, Mr. Saurav Jha, Nuclear Expert, Geopolitics Magazine, and Mr. I. A. Khan, Joint Advisor, Planning Commission, were of the view that India can be a new nuclear supplier, but that would happen gradually.
Other important participants were Mr. Stephen Goldberg, Argonne National Lab, USA, Mr. Mohit Abraham, Partner, PVX Law Partner, Ms. Arundhati Ghose, former Ambassador to the UN, Dr. Alan Hanson, Executive Director, MIT, USA, Dr. Manpreet Sethi, Senior Fellow, Centre for Air Power Studies.
The purpose of the workshop was to address key ingredients related to the nuclear safety and security, such as the safety regulations, legal infrastructure (e.g., atomic law, liability), and personnel training, among others.
The workshop covered the following topics:
• Country energy forecast and national energy plan.
• Nuclear energy plans - new builds and project status.
• Nuclear industry - supply chain issues and financial mechanisms
• Institutional capacity - safety regulation, liability, and human resources (e.g., recruitment, training)
• Spent fuel management - policy considerations and management mechanisms/infrastructure, technology options and programmatic status.
The two-day workshop was attended by representatives of nuclear suppliers, industry and experts who deliberated on how to create a safe and sustainable nuclear future as well as potential criteria for an Indian nuclear supply chain.
(This report is prepared by Ashish Gupta, Associate Fellow, Centre for Resources Management, Observer Research Foundation)