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Russia’s energy clout doesn’t just come from oil and gas – it’s a key nuclear supplier


Shankar Sharma, Power & Climate Policy Analyst based in Sagara, Karnataka, India writes to Dr A Gopalakrishnan, former chairman of Indian Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (1993–1996), is a well-known figure in the field of nuclear power, nuclear safety and nuclear non-proliferation:
***
I came across an interesting article, “Russia’s energy clout doesn’t just come from oil and gas – it’s also a key nuclear supplier” on the increasing complications and uncertainties associated with the procurement of nuclear fuel for various countries which have opted for nuclear power. The military operations in Ukraine have made it very troublesome and uncertain, especially from the perspective of India. The article has not made any direct reference to the intractable issues associated with the so called sanctions on Russia; but the vast dependence on Russia for energy related supplies to so many countries, especially in nuclear power sector, makes the effort associated with such a sanction a humorous episode for many observers.
Some of the points highlighted in the article should be a matter of great concern to the advocates of nuclear power in India from the perspective of reliable import of nuclear fuel alone for the proposed increase in nuclear power capacity. As some kind of supplier or maker of nuclear fuel (even if it is very minor in volume), India does not seem to find a place at all at the global arena; so small seems to be our resources. In such a scenario how credible it will be to rely on import of nuclear fuel for most of the nuclear reactors proposed to be built in the country?
The Integrated Energy Policy of the erstwhile Planning Commission in 2006 had admitted that India is poorly endowed with Uranium, and that the known sources within the country can supply only about 10,000 MW of power capacity based on Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR). But the same policy had also controversially proposed to increase Nuclear power capacity, from about 4,800 MW in 2011 to about 63,000 MW in 2032, and to about 250,000 MW by 2050; evidently based on imported technologies. Whereas, there have been no indications since 2006 that such an ambitious policy plan to increase the nuclear capacity has been dropped, the question is whether India should continue to plan for more of nuclear power capacity despite the uncertainties, risks and costs associated with the new global nuclear fuel supply scenario, which is fast emerging as a global energy concern.
I remember the last occasion few years ago when we met last, how unhappy you were against the imported technologies for our nuclear power sector because of our own bitter past experiences. I am of the considered opinion that you, as an Ex-Chairperson of AERB and with considerable experience as a nuclear engineer in India’s nuclear power sector, are in a great position to advise the union govt. on the desirability of depending on the imported nuclear technology for the country. Many people like me are keen to know your views on this aspect of nuclear power.
May I hope that your own personal circumstances and health will allow you to share with us your considered opinion on this issue?

*Power & Climate Policy Analyst based in Sagara, Karnataka

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