After sincere and serious
efforts by the Indian team, in several meetings and, with all the concerned
countries, India has finally succeeded in getting the waiver from the Nuclear
Supplier Group. I have already written couple of papers on the Indian Energy
Policy and role of Nuclear Energy in India's economic and industrial development
programmes. Therefore, in this paper we will not highlight those aspects except
for a brief statement that, in the overall power development programmes of the
country, the role of nuclear power is expected to rise from the present
proportion of less than 3% (4,100 MW out of total of 1,45,000 MW) to about 7%
(60,000 MW out of total of 800,000 MW) in next 25 years, by the year 2032.
Nuclear power, therefore, is expected to play not a marginal role but make a
significant contribution in the overall energy strategy of the country.
On the occasion of India getting
waiver from the NSG Nations, Delhi Doordarshan organised, on Thursday, the 11th
September, 2008, one hour debate between a group of Experts viz. S/Sh. R.V.
Shahi, G. Parthasarthi, Uday Bhaskar, Siddhartha Vardharajan, Ms. Arundhati
Ghosh and participants drawn from different walks of life. The focus of this
debate was to understand the implications, for India, of the NSG waiver. The
discussions centered around the following main issues:
Would this waiver
mean a lot to India in terms of energy availability, energy security or would it
just make a peripheral contribution?
generation with nuclear power may make some difference for industrial and
commercial sectors, but would it make any impact at all on general people
particularly in rural India?
There are lot of
discussions and controversies about the content of 123 Agreement with the
U.S.A., reference about Hyde Act in the 123 Agreement and also about a letter
from the U.S. Government to the U.S. Congressmen about U.S.A.'s position in case
India conducted a nuclear test. Do these all mean that India cannot be assured
of certainties of supply of nuclear fuel? By implication, does it mean that we
will have to restrain ourselves from conducting such nuclear tests even if they
were needed in the interest of India's security?
In the last 50
years we have been able to just cross 4,000 MW of power generation capacity
based on nuclear fuel. Are we being too ambitious and unrealistically
optimistic about the capacity additions in next two to three decades?
What is our
preparedness in terms of manufacturing to meet the challenging targets of
capacity addition through nuclear route?
Would the power
capacity addition programmes, on large scale, as being projected, not result in
greater exposure to safety risks? What is the preparedness of the regulatory
institution to mitigate this problem?
provides even larger scope than the nuclear route. Why is it that India is
emphasising so much on nuclear and not taking adequate measures for harnessing
the deal beyond energy development programmes - what is the relevance of nuclear
collaboration for other economic and non economic activities beyond energy
Is there any
particular interest of the U.S.A. - political or otherwise - that they are so
much interested in carrying through this deal and are trying to ensure that this
happens sooner than later? Have we understood comprehensively their game plan
or are we getting into some sort of a trap?
Is this exercise
projecting India, in the perception of our people and of others in the world, to
be getting closer to the U.S.A. and therefore is it changing India's image from
a non-aligned nation to the one becoming pro-U.S.A?
Let us deal with each of these
issues which were, by and large, covered, though briefly. The treatments of
these issues are not necessarily the elaboration of the points made but there
could also substantially be relevant additionalities.
At present, in the
total profile of installed capacity of power, nuclear power contributes only
about 2.6%. While the Nuclear Power Corporation of India, a Government
Undertaking, has plans to expand the capacities of existing plants as also add
new plants, since capacity addition through other routes are on a much larger
scale, in the near future (both short term and medium term), it is unlikely that
there will be a significant increase in the proportion of nuclear generation
capacity. However, while talking of power generation programmes we must take a
holistic and long term view. The Integrated Energy Policy and the National
Electricity Policy have recognised that nuclear power generation capacity will
have to be a significant portion of the total power generation capacity in the
country. Accordingly, it has been projected that by the year 2032 India may be
having a nuclear power capacity of the order of over 60,000 MW, about 7% of the
total power capacity then. Therefore, it would be wrong to assume that nuclear
energy will be playing only a peripheral role. In the years beyond 2032, the
way India will continue to be under pressure from global community on account of
issues concerning global warming, given the fact that there will be
technological advancement in nuclear power generation, with better level of
confidence about adequacy of fuel, India could target even a larger proportion
by the year 2050 to be coming from the nuclear generation systems. Already a
tentative figure of 25% by 2050 is being talked about.
participants, a concern was raised whether nuclear electricity will at all be of
any relevance to rural India or will it be confined to meeting the needs of
major towns and industrial centers. This concern emanated, as the participant
himself brought out, from the fact that nuclear power was costlier than other
conventional power. It was clarified, that it needed to be appreciated that
power from any technology gets into the transmission grid and after that it
looses its identity of whether it belongs to coal based generation or gas power
plants or hydro electric systems. So long as more of such power becomes
available, the supply reliability in rural India is bound to improve. As
regards price of power, the present tariff structure does provide a system of
cross subsidy whereby the price of power for rural India is significantly less
as compared to prices for other groups of consumers.
country if any one issue has generated maximum amount of discussions, debates
and also controversies, it is the 123 Agreement, a reference to the American
Hyde Act in the Agreement and more recently the letter supposed to have been
written by the Government of U.S.A. to their Congressmen with a mention about
the intention of the U.S.A. to deal with the issue of fuel supply in the event
India conducted any nuclear test. Similar were the sentiments and the tone of
questions from the participants of this Doordarshan T.V. Programme as well. A
lot of apprehensions were raised. Clarifications made which could lead to
better understanding may be outlined as given below:
The waiver given
by Nuclear Supplier Group is not by the U.S.A. alone but by as many as 45
countries. It needs to be emphasised that while 123 Agreement with the U.S.A.
was necessary to approach the NSG Nations for the waiver, any conditions of 123
Agreement may not at all be relevant in so far as commercial transactions that
Indian companies would finalise with agencies of other countries. We need to
recognise the 123 Agreement as a launching pad, and that once the issue has been
launched and the NSG Nations have given the waiver, India would be free to enter
into commercial agreements with them and that the relevance of the launching pad
(123 Agreement), gets into the background.
It would be
advisable for the nuclear power generating utilities to make long term
agreements for assured fuel supplies with predictable price variation provisions
so that risks associated with these high cost investments are minimised.
It may happen that
even though the U.S.A. has been in the forefront of this whole exercise, Indian
companies may not find the commercial terms of fuel supply by companies/agencies
of the U.S.A. favourable, or they may find certain conditions totally
unacceptable. In such an event there may be no agreement with the U.S.A.
companies at all and we may find it more favourable to finalise such
arrangements with other countries. NSG waiver has unlocked the door and
opportunities have been created. Any obsession or apprehension about our
dealings with U.S.A. should, therefore, not be allowed to overshadow the options
- and they are many - to avail of the benefits of nuclear energy.
this whole issue has got over-projected as if the whole exercise is aimed at
entering into arrangement or agreement between India and U.S.A. and since U.S.A.
is of the considered view that if India conducted any test, the fuel supply to
Indian plants may get disrupted. Just as we cannot prevent U.S.A. from taking
that position, U.S.A. will not be in a position to prevent India from conducting
the test if India, as a sovereign nation, considered it necessary to do so. We
will not be worse off than today. What is the present baseline? If we conduct
the test today, we are not going to get fuel from U.S.A., and as a matter of
fact, from no other country as well. With the new dispensation, atleast one
thing is certain that even if we conducted the test, may be U.S.A. may not
continue to supply fuel, but others will, as per the agreements that the Indian
power companies would have finalised with them.
Even in the
U.S.A., whatever may be their political considerations or requirements, their
industry may be greatly benefited from the enormous growth and expansions in
nuclear field in India. If the Indian companies could finalise with the U.S.
manufacturers an arrangement to supply nuclear plant with assured arrangement
for life time fuel supply, it is this industry within U.S.A. which will prevail
on the Government dispensation not to discontinue fuel supply even if India were
to conduct the test. Therefore, much will depend on how innovatively and skilfully our companies are able to configure and structure our commercial
agreements with these equipment suppliers.
Are we being too
ambitious to target more than 60,000 MW in next 25 years? The concern is
genuine and justified. In the last over 50 years of our nuclear programme we
have just been able to cross 4,000 MW capacity. Even for these plans, in the
last five years, there has been continuous deterioration in capacity utilisation
because of inadequacies in supply of domestic fuel. With this background,
considering a target of the type we are discussing, is not only daunting and
challenging but obviously it appears virtually impossible, atleast in the
perception of most of the people. However, the way India has now been able to
scale up its economic growth rate, the way plans and programmes have been and
are being put in place for various infrastructure sectors, the challenging
target of over 55,000 MW additional capacity; in 25 years, can be made possible
to be achieved. This will obviously require not only fuel tie-ups but all types
conventional power generation front, consisting mainly of coal based thermal
power projects and hydro electric projects, domestic manufacturing capacity and
capability have proved not only insufficient but far too short of the need.
While in the last two years an awakening has happened and we see some movements,
our nuclear generation programmes also will need commensurate preparedness in
manufacturing sector. Even though we may have to partially source power plant
equipment from outside, it would be desirable that Indian manufacturing base is
suitably enlarged to cope with the ambitious expansion programmes through
nuclear route. Preparedness will also be necessary in respect of related
balance of plant systems and construction equipment technology and manpower, so
that they all help in achieving the targets as per schedule.
power professionals, scientists and engineers have demonstrated their expertise
and capability to run nuclear power plants efficiently and safely. Though not
very often, but definitely we do get disturbing examples of unsafe and hazardous
radiations from these plants in different parts of the world. Even after
several decades of nuclear plant operations in a number of countries, these
accidents do succeed in shaking the confidence of people. And, therefore, there
are countries where resistance to these plants is so intense that in many cases
authorities and agencies are not able to proceed to execute any such new
plants. Fortunately in India such a resistance does not exist in view of our
good track record. However, it needs to be underscored that when we are
launching into a much larger expansion of our capacity profile with unit rating
of 1,000 MW to 1,600 MW, and that too with large number of such plants, our
safety apparatus, institutional arrangements and regulatory systems and
procedures may need to be revisited and properly attuned to these magnitudes.
During the T.V.
discussion, a point was raised by one of the participants that with so much of
solar potential in the country which, if harnessed, could provide a more
satisfactory and stable answer to our energy problems, we are so much obsessed
with nuclear energy. As per her information, she thought that nuclear power was
as costly as solar power and therefore she suggested as to why not go for solar
power in a big way than to get into all these controversies. It was clarified
that no doubt solar energy was an eternal source of energy and India was endowed
with atleast 8 to 9 months of good sun rays in most parts of the country, yet
the technological development had not reached a stage that we could harness this
energy at anywhere near affordable cost. Solar power is six to seven times
costlier than the other conventional power; it may be atleast four to five times
costlier than even nuclear power. In any case, India's strategy has
appropriately focussed even on harnessing as much as possible solar energy and
this strategy will not only continue but in years to come the focus will be
further intensified. In fact, India's need for power is so enormous that all
choices will have to be fully utilised because no one option on its own can
fully meet our needs.
An aspect which
was very clearly, and in the most articulate fashion, was brought out by one of
the Panelists was that though during this exercise linkage with energy has been
highlighted considerably, and perhaps rightly so, we also need to recognise that
the global nuclear collaboration, which India is embarking upon, is not only
about power. The role of nuclear collaboration goes beyond and covers areas
like agriculture, medicine, bio technology, software sector etc. All these
areas provide ample scope for deployment of these technologies and therefore
opportunities for investment.
In view of the
intensity of deliberations and the role that U.S. Government has played, in the
perception of some of the participants -and perhaps it might reflect the
impression throughout the country - there may be a hidden agenda of the U.S.A.
Many tend to believe that the deep involvement of the U.S.A. is not without
their selfish interest. Some of the participants went to the extent of saying
whether our own system of Government has been able to comprehensively capture
their game plan and whether we are not falling into a trap. It was clarified by
the expert diplomats among the Panelists that last 50 years of our diplomatic
relations with U.S.A. have been such that this doubt comes to the minds of
many. However, we should recognise that we have emerged as a major economic
power, particularly in this region of the world. In the assessment of the
U.S.A., only India, a democratic country, could be a reliable and substantial
answer to China's growing clouts. Therefore, if the U.S.A. is trying to come
closer to India we must not feel apprehensive, in fact we should feel proud that
we have reached a stage that we are being recognised as a strong global force.
Some of the
participants raised concerns about India being perceived becoming pro-U.S.A. and
because of this whether our diplomacy is shifting its character from being a
non-aligned nation to one tilting towards the U.S. There could be a risk that
our diplomatic relations with a number of countries may get affected due to such
a perception. It was ably clarified by the diplomatic experts among us, the
Panelists, that in the matter of diplomatic relations there have been
considerable shift in the thinking pattern in the recent years. Countries look
at bilateral and multilateral relations both from strategic as well as economic
points of views. In any case, as mentioned earlier, the waiver from NSG is from
as many as 45 countries and following this milestone India's economic relations
with a large number of these countries are going to undergo significant changes
in the positive direction. Therefore, to think that this series of initiative
can be perceived to project India as pro-U.S.A. may not be a correctly placed
The T.V. discussion ended with
concluding remarks with each of the four Expert Panelists. The consensus was
that (a) NSG waiver is an historic event for India, (b) while we need not be
euphoric about this development because the advantages from this development are
only to be seen in the long term, we should definitely feel convinced that it is
a significant step in India's energy strategy, (c) India's position in the
global group has got enhanced in view of the recognition by advanced nations
about not only India's potential but its present economic and political status,
(d) this entire exercise, though begins with U.S.A., is not confined to U.S.A.
Somehow on this issue there is considerable communication gap. We needed 123
Agreement for us to be enabled to enter into wider arrangement with rest of the
world, (e) in conclusion, NSG waiver is a major milestone in global nuclear
collaboration, which will place India in altogether a different and higher
position and, therefore, this should be widely welcomed by all concerned.