Nuclear Program Stages in India – UPSC GS3

Indian Nuclear Power Generation is divided into three stages:

STAGE 1- Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor using
  • Natural UO2 as fuel matrix
  • India achieved complete self- reliance in this technology and this stage of the programme is in the industrial domain.
STAGE 2- Fast Breeder Reactor
  • the use of Pu-239 obtained from the first stage reactor operation, as the fuel core in fast breeder reactors (FBR).
  • It is technically feasible to produce sustained energy output of 420 GWe from FBR.
  • Setting up Pu-239 fuelled fast Breeder Reactor of 500 MWe power generation it is proposed to use thorium-based fuel, along with a small feed of plutonium-based fuel in Advanced Heavy Water Reactors (AHWRs).
STAGE 3- Breeder Reactor
India’s vast thorium deposits permit design and operation of U-233 fuelled breeder reactors.
  • U-233 is obtained from the nuclear transmutation of Th-232 used as a blanket in the second phase Pu-239 fuelled FBR.
  • These U-233/Th-232 based breeder reactors are under development and would serve as the mainstay of the final thorium utilization stage of the Indian nuclear programme.
Since 1948, AERB and NPCIL have remained less autonomous to swiftly overcome hassles in manufacturing of Nuclear reactors. Though, India is only country currently which have biggest functional thorium based reactor at BARC.
India has capacity to build over 100 thorium based Nuclear reactor to counter energy crisis and climate change simultaneously, only problem is revenue, land, and public participation
Issue of Lack of Nuclear Fuel(Uranium and Thorium)
  • Due to earlier trade bans and lack of indigenous Uranium has resulted in shortage of fuel.
  • Lack of technology to exploit Thorium.
  • Since 2010, a fundamental incompatibility between India’s Civil Liability Law and International conventions limits foreign technology provision.
Steps Taken to address the Issue
  • Under the Indo-U.S. nuclear cooperation agreement, India was to sign and ratify the Additional Protocol of the IAEA which has been done. With this, India has become more open to international checks. By complying with all the norms under the India-US nuclear deal, India’s chance for becoming a member of the coveted 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group will increase.
  • Nuclear deal with Australia( has 40 percent of the world’s known uranium reserves),Canada and Russia.
  • India has uniquely been developing a Nuclear Fuel Cycle to exploit its reserves of Thorium. (Explained Below-Not to be included in Answer). India has reasonably assured resources of thorium – about 13% of the world total, and these are intended to fuel its nuclear power program for longer term.
Indian nuclear reactors have been running below the capacity due to the mismatch of power and supply demand of uranium. Analyse why and explain what India has done to address this issue. (200 Words)



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