Homi Jehangir Bhabha, the father of nuclear research in India and the architect of the Indian Atomic Energy programme, once said “When nuclear energy has been successfully applied for power production in, say, a couple of decades from now, India will not have to look abroad for its experts but will find them ready at hand.”Bhabha had realised the potential of nuclear power so with the support from the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and financing from JRD Tata he on 10 August 1948 formed Atomic Energy Commission.
Celebrate its saga and continuing with its stout principles, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) was formed on 4 August 1954. DAE is apt in development of nuclear power technology in India. Department of Atomic Energy's heritage was built on research and experimentation and has been sustained by innovation. Through its evolution from an infrastructure for research in nuclear energy, to radiochemistry, space, medicine, industrial development, and an entire gamut of activities related to nuclear science and technology to be a self-sufficient innovator, they’ve never been afraid to explore new possibilities and embrace the changing space.
Pace of Indian nuclear community can be realised by the fact that the first ever nuclear reactor in Asia outside the erstwhile Soviet Union was built at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) Trombay, named APSARA meaning celestial nymph. CIRUS was built in 1960 so that more work could be carried indigenously as compared to Apsara so that less raw fuel was imported from outside the country. Cirus was a major supplier of isotopes and materials obtained from this plant were reutilised in development of boiling water reactors and fuelling of many reactors.
As per the organisation, there are 22 nuclear reactors in operation in 7 nuclear power plants in India as of March 2019.
To make sure that development takes place successfully, government needs to be proactive in making policies and laws favouring health, technology, economy and energy. India consumes only 6% of the world’s primary energy. As per the All Indian Installed Capacity of Power Stations Report, the total capacity of installed power stations in India was 357.875GW (Gigawatt) with 226324.34MW through thermal sources (194489.50MW from coal, 6260MW from lignite, 24937.22MW from gas and 637.63MW from diesel) 6780MW through nuclear sources, 45399.22MW through hydro and 79371.92MW through renewable energy sources (including Small Hydro Project, Biomass Gasifier, Biomass Power, Urban & Industrial Waste Power, Solar and Wind Energy) as of 31 May 2019. Total installed electricity generation capacity in the year 1947, was 1,363MWe. It proliferated to 30,214MWe in the year 1980-81, to 66,086MWe in the year 1990-91. India ranks third in electricity production and its consumption in the world. By Central Electricity Authority India's peak power deficit during the fiscal year 2018-2019 was 0.6% with peak demand of 183673MW up to June 2019. After analysing data, various national and international institutes realise the trend and predict the labels in the coming future.
The Energy Resources Institute (TERI) in their base case projected the primary energy growth rate was 4.4% per year during the period 1997-2019 and 3.6% per year during the period 2020-2047. As per BP Energy Outlook 2018 the energy share in the year 2040 is slated as 25% for oil, 7% for gas, 50% for coal, 2% for nuclear, 3% for hydro and 13% for renewable sources of energy. As per Indian Energy Outlook by IEA, India is feasible to account for 25% of the rise in global energy demand by 2040. India's energy would experience a dramatic surge in net oil imports to more than 90% by 2040 (International Energy Agency).
According to the 19th Electric Power Survey the electricity consumption on all-India basis during the year 2021-22 and 2031-32 has been assessed as 1300 BU and 2192 BU respectively and the requirement on all-India basis during the year 2021-22 and 2031-32 has been assessed as 1566 BU and 2531 BU respectively. The peak electricity demand has been estimated as 226GW during 2021-22 and 370GW during the year 2031-32. The figures above variably change and depend upon various other factors like transport (diesel, petrol), buildings (residential, commercial), agriculture (electric or diesel or solar pumps), telecom (fuel for towers), industry (PAT policy for raw materials, grid, and fuel), cooking (LPG, PNG or electricity). These factors form the basis of projections listed above.
As it is clear from the projected energy outlook reports though coal based thermal power plants will continue to be the mainstay of energy generation, it would be pertinent to analyse the impact of clean energy technologies in India. Energy modelling tools like the India Energy Security Scenarios (IESS) 2047 aspires to achieve Power for all, 175GW of installed capacity of renewable energy by 2022, and clean cooking fuels. It is clear that India needs to have a prolonged strategy which is a mix of conventional and renewable sources of energy. Where conventional sources like coal and petrol are perishable and release too much greenhouse gases, emphasis can be laid on using non-conventional sources like hydro, wind, solar, and nuclear energy. While in non-conventional sources also water source is needed nearby for hydro, fast winds are required to turn the windmills, large area is needed for setting up solar panels but, nuclear energy vying all these resources serves as a potential source of energy.
India has large reserves of Thorium which can be used as fuel in accelerator driven sub-critical reactors but has less Uranium reserves which is used in pressurised heavy water reactors. Indian Nuclear Programme is based on three stage programme which intends to exploit its nuclear fuel reserves. Stage I covers Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors; Stage II covers fast breeder reactors; and Stage III covers advanced heavy water reactors. Thorium based thermal and fast breeder technology eke ADS, be developed so as to provide required fissile material. The reactors use Uranium, Plutonium and 233U (PHWR and FBR) eke reprocessing of Thorium to 233U (breeder type reactors). Fast breeder reactors have the potential to ensure that generation by nuclear power by 2050 is about a quarter of the total electricity generation. DAE plans to install about 20GWe nuclear power that covers 2.5GWe of Oxide fuelled FBRs and 8GWe of LWRs by 2020. The increased share of renewables and clean energy will be a win-win situation for India as it will help in reducing imports, GHG emissions and thus increase the energy accessibility. It is very important for policy makers to take required decisions on what sources of energy should be prioritized which will ultimately lead to eradication of energy poverty in India and at the same time will ensure energy security along with sustainability and safety. Safety is a matter of prime importance in handling nuclear and radioactive technology. It covers both the safety of the plant and the common man who is affected by it. Nuclear reactions are carried out in controlled environment in nuclear reactors to produce energy. Selection of the geographical area, choosing perfect system of operation, and precautions for unwanted situations everything is considered. In India this works on three levels: first level of defence considering design of system; second level of defence considering detection, interception and control of deviations; third level of defence comprising multiple barriers to prevent release of radiation to environment. DAE and other related organisations are having instrumentations and technology like leak before break system, Fast Breeder Reactors, electrostatic precipitators VVER Reactors etc.
It was not an easy task writing about an organisation that has grown, evolved and achieved so much and never strayed from the human ethos and values on which it was built. I might not have written all the names who have brought this organisation where we see it today but India has made a pioneer mark in Nuclear Science and Technology because of the dedicated and meticulous efforts put by the engineers and scientists who complete the family of DAE. India is a proud nuclear state because it has taken many initiatives towards the betterment of humanity. DAE has built a reputation for excellence with a mission to create an organisation that the humans from all over the world will recognise, value and trust for both its work and service.