India Cannot Reach Net Zero Emissions Targets Without Nuclear Power (Kakodkar)

India cannot meet its net zero emissions commitments without nuclear power, says eminent nuclear physicist and former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Dr Anil Kakodkar.

In a conversation with Activity area Kakodkar said on Friday he endorsed India’s commitments at the global climate conference, including achieving 500 GW of renewable energy capacity and securing half of India’s energy needs. from non-fossil fuels by 2030. However, he said that such a large integration of renewable energy into the grid would bring two problems in its wake: grid stability and the cost of electricity.

Kakodkar observed that even if the cost of solar power at the point of generation had fallen to low levels, if one included the cost of measures to maintain grid stability, the total cost to the consumer would not be included. cheap. In this context, he said that nuclear power alone could provide low cost power and help with grid balancing.

Stressing that the current pace of the deployment of nuclear energy in the country is “not sufficient”, he declared, “it is absolutely necessary to accelerate it”.

(India has 23 reactors with a total capacity of 7,480 MW, including the 700 MW KAPP-3 which was connected to the grid in January 2021. In addition, plans are underway to build a fleet of 10 units. 700 MW of pressurized heavy water. reactors), which would add an additional 7,000 MW. And then, 8,000 MW of nuclear power plants are in different stages of construction, including the four units at Kudankulam and the 500 MW Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor. The government expects the country to have 22,480 MW by 2031.)

Kakodkar observed that unlike earlier, fuel availability was not an issue. India is not only able to source uranium from overseas, but the availability of domestic uranium has also increased. (India has 3.5 lakh tonnes of uranium ore, containing 2.97 lakh tonnes of uranium, most of it in Andhra Pradesh.)

He said rather than a fleet of 10 700 MW units, the country should be working on (say) four such fleets.

In addition, by redesigning fuels so that they take longer to burn (or run out), it is possible to make nuclear power plants flexible – their output could be increased or reduced depending on demand. In other words, nuclear power plants can be adapted to the “load following mode”, which is common in France, where 75% of the energy is supplied by nuclear power plants.

Kakodkar called for “empowered implementation” to avoid delays, because at this scale of operation, even a one-day delay costs a lot of money.

Small modular reactors (SMR)

On small modular reactors – reactors of any size between 100 MW and 300 MW, now referred to as the future of nuclear power – Kakodkar said SMRs will not replace large reactors. However, it would be wise to plan for SMRs on sites vacated by retired coal-fired power plants. These sites, Kakodkar said, already have facilities such as water sources and railway sidings. An SMR program should run alongside the large nuclear power plant program, he said.

When asked if barge-mounted SMRs made sense, Kakodkar said they would be very expensive, but could be used to meet temporary emergency needs.

Green hydrogen

When asked if nuclear power could be used to split water to produce hydrogen, Kakodkar said high-temperature nuclear reactors could be used to generate heat, which could be used for the thermochemical division of water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Water divides into hydrogen and oxygen when heated – heat can come from high temperature nuclear power plants. It would be a cheaper way to produce hydrogen.

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