Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Indo-US Nuke Deal: Some more facts

Prove me wrong (ofcourse with facts and figures), I'd feel extremely happy to change my opinion. I just want to keep the facts infront of people.

Nuclear power will be critical for the country’s long-term energy security, no doubt on that. It is important to understand that the n-deal cannot be central to achieving our 3-stage nuclear power programme. Even Dr Anil Kakodkar calls import n-power to be an “additionality” to the long-term projections for our indigenous nuclear capacity.

We want Plutonium out of our first stage, PHWRs contribute that for our 2nd stage. Even LWRs are expected to do so. But do you know that LWRs will not give as much plutonium as PHWRs give..?? (I dont have much data on these proportions, if some body can subsantiate, I'd be thankful. Even I'd feel happy to be "proved" wrong..!!). So if we are very much dependant on importing LWRs, it may ultimately reduce attention towards PHWRs, hence plutonium; which will ultimately affect the 2nd stage of our 3 stage programme. So the affects will be seen in long term.

Now comes energy security. All will agree that less than 10% nuclear contribution cannot be termed "critical". It stands to reason, therefore, that n-agreement cannot meet the energy needs. If there is no import contribution, it is certainly possible to live with a 5% n-component. May be, it will be prudent to import coal and natural gas and implement new thermal and gas-based projects to meet energy needs.

I certainly dont support coal for long term needs, but instead of giving a nod to the Nuclear imports, I'd certainly like to invest all that money which is planned for nuclear imports to be invested in Solar Power R&D/installations, which has all the abilities to cater long term needs. Indeed for our short/medium term needs, coal/gas is a must.

Imports would become necessary only if 2nd stage does not succeed as envisaged and consequently the 3rd stage fails to take off. The only option then would be to expand the PHWRs and LWRs base, may be using imported uranium and LWRs. But then long term reliance on n-power would not be a correct option to think for. So from this perspective, imported nuclear power is not essential at this point of time. If some additional power can come in without any attendant constraints (policy-related compromises), it is acceptable.

The current requirement of natural uranium is about 600 tonnes a year and the current production is less than half that. However, the augmentation made will ease the crunch significantly in about 6 months, if DAE officials are to believed. UCIL is investing Rs.3,100 crore to open new mines and set up processing plants in Jharkhand, AP and Meghalaya. In Jharkhand alone, Rs.650 crore is being invested. Investment of Rs.1,800 crore is proposed for setting up two uranium mining plants in AP.

The CAG of India observed in 1999 that one of the main reasons for the DAE falling short of the original target of 10,000 MWe by 2000 was the large shortfall in government funding in 1980s & 1990s. Surprisingly Manmohan Singh was the Finance Minister and Montek Singh Ahluwalia was the Secretary for Economic Affairs and Finance Secretary during 1990s. Strangely now, in their new-found faith in nuclear power, they are championing the cause, but through imports!
Coming to the cost components. Importing would be much costlier (about 9 crore/MWe "without the interest" during construction on the borrowed amount) than the capital cost of indigenous PHWRs at about Rs.7 crore/MWe. The price of processed and fabricated uranium fuel is $1,625/kg. A 1000 MWe LWR requires nearly 1000 tonnes of uranium fuel over its lifetime, which means an additional $1,625 million over the $2,000 million capital cost, if fuel is to be stocked for a lifetime. This in the current exchange rates amounts to Rs 9310 crores for building & running 1 LWR...!!!

Let's assume that such large resources can be raised through the market; dont you think the money would be better spent in implementing a wider base of the PHWRs, in increasing production of domestic uranium resources, and in spending some part of it towards the Solar Power, which is mis-interpreted to be costly, in the scenario when we are ready to push thousands of crores of rupees importing nuclear power...????????

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