India signed the Paris Accord, but it is already cutting back on its plans for nuclear power, which produces no greenhouse gases, and the country is likely turning to additional coal-fired power plants instead. India has the fifth largest coal reserves in the world at 94.8 billion metric tons, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, and its technically recoverable coal resources are more than triple that number. India produced 692 million metric tons of coal in 2016 and has plans to produce even more, doubling its coal production by 2020, and making it the second largest producer of coal in the world, second to China. India already uses more coal than the United States.

At least 200 million of India’s 1.3 billion people have no electricity and many of those that do have access to electric power find it available for just three or four hours a day. The lack of power limits efforts to advance living standards and to increase the country’s manufacturing sector. As the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, India is attempting to build a modern industrialized economy, and bring electricity to its entire population, without dramatically increasing carbon emissions. But, to keep up with the increasing demand for electricity, India must add about 15 gigawatts of generating capacity annually for the next 30 years. Most of the country’s electricity (two-thirds) is supplied by coal-fired plants.

Efforts to introduce efficient burning of coal are underway; power plants have started using washed coal before burning it to generate electricity. New plants are using super-critical or ultra-super critical technology, which raises the efficiency of the coal burned while reducing criteria pollutants (e.g. sulfur dioxide, particulate matter) as well as carbon dioxide emissions.

Nonetheless, India’s carbon dioxide emissions increased by 5 percent in 2016 and its coal consumption increased by 3.6 percent, accounting for 11 percent of the world’s coal consumption. India is cutting its planned nuclear power plant construction by almost two-thirds. With those cancellations, more coal will likely be consumed for electricity generation.

India Cuts Back Its Planned Nuclear Power Program

The Narendra Modi government cut its original 63,000 megawatt nuclear power capacity target to 22,480 megawatts by 2031. The reduction in planned construction of new nuclear reactors will reduce India’s future electric generation from nuclear power from an expected 25 percent share to about 8 or 10 percent. While the government did not provide a reason for the nuclear power cancellations, it is likely due to the following challenges: 1) a lack of funding, 2) a supply chain that cannot reliably handle huge increases in orders, and 3) a lack of trained personnel, who can build and operate the plants at the planned level of activity.

India’s nuclear plans now consist of 19 units composed of indigenous 700-megawatt pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs) and Russian VVERs (a pressurized water reactor), totaling 17 gigawatts. By 2024, India will have an installed nuclear power capacity of 13,480 megawatts, which will be a little less than the original 14,340 megawatt target.

The cancelled reactors number 57 and include 700-megawatt PHWRs, Russian VVERs, Areva EPRs (a third generation pressurized water reactor) and Westinghouse AP 1000s.  Four fast breeder reactors are part of the cancellations, which raises questions about India’s commitment to its three phase plan for nuclear energy. The first phase consists of 700-megawatt PHWRs using natural uranium. The second phase uses plutonium fueled fast breeder reactors. The third phase involves U233 thorium reactors for generation. India has more reserves of thorium than any other country with 25 percent of the global reserves. Estimated at 360,000 tons, it outweighs its natural uranium deposits of 70,000 tons.

A fast breeder reactor using U233 thorium is being developed at Kalpakkam. The plant uses plutonium produced in PHWR reactors as well as from PWR reactors to breed U-233 from thorium. A 500-megawatt prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR) was scheduled to start up in October of 2017. Two more FBRs are planned for the Kalpakkam site.

The list of reactors that will likely be completed by the mid-to-late 2020s is below. The list covers two of the six Areva EPRs slated for Jaitapur on India’s west coast and two of the six Westinghouse AP 1000s planned for Andhra Pradesh on its east coast. Rosatom will complete four more 1000-megawatt units at Kudankulam on India’s southern tip.

Source: Energy Post


With a major cut in planned new construction of nuclear reactors, India will need to rely more heavily on building coal fired power plants. The country needs to use coal to bring power to its residents that do not have it and to provide that power 24/7. India has large coal resources and it has upped its coal production. Despite its plans to add 15.6 gigawatts of renewable capacity in 2018 and 2019, that capacity will not be sufficient for its generating needs and will not provide the reliability of coal-fired generation.

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