Nuclear Energy

Nuclear Energy

‘Core catcher’ in a nuclear plantPrelims Only


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Core Catcher

Mains level : Nuclear energy and its hazards

The Moscow-based Rosatom State Corporation Engineering Division has installed a core melt localisation device (CMLD) or “core catcher” at Tamil Nadu’s Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP).

What is the protective “core catcher” device?

  • Molten core material, or corium, is lava-like material that gets formed in the core of a nuclear reactor in the event of a meltdown accident.
  • Such an accident occurs when the nuclear fission reaction taking place inside a reactor is not sufficiently cooled, and the buildup of heat causes fuel rods to melt down.
  • The corium so formed can remain radioactive for several decades, even centuries.
  • In the past, meltdown accidents have occurred at Chernobyl in Russia in 1986 and at Fukushima in Japan in 2011.
  • The device has improved seismic resistance, hydro-dynamic and shock strength as well as equipped with flood protection and simplified installation and assembly technology.

Its construct

  • The core catcher is a cone shaped metal structure that weighs about 800 tonnes.
  • The structure is double walled, with the gap between the two walls filled with FAOG (ferric and aluminium oxide granules).
  • The core catcher is filled with a ceramic mixture also including ferric oxide and aluminium oxide, called ‘sacrificial material’.
  • The sacrificial material prevents the corium from trickling through and also acts as a cooling mechanism.


  • The core catcher device is installed at the bottom of the nuclear station’s protective shell.
  • It is designed to save the latter as well as exude radioactive emission in the environment in case of a serious accident.
Nuclear Energy

Akademik Lomonosov: Worlds first floating Nuclear PlantPrelims Only


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the reactor

Mains level : Protective measures against nuclear hazards

  • Recently, a Russian-built floating nuclear power plant completed its 5,000-km journey along the Northern Sea Route.
  • This has sparked fears among environmentalists over the safety of the Arctic region.

Akademik Lomonosov

  • The Akademik Lomonosov is a first-of-its-kind floating nuclear power station built in St Petersburg, the Russian port city on the Gulf of Finland.
  • Three tugboats pulled it from the northern port of Murmansk for 5,000 kilometres to Chukotka, in Russia’s far east.
  • Named after the 18th-century Russian scientist Mikhail Lomonosov, the 21,000-tonne floating plant is 144 m long and 30 m wide, and contains two nuclear reactors of 35 MW each.
  • It is a small plant compared to conventional land-based nuclear projects.
  • Run by the state-owned nuclear energy corporation Rosatom, it is expected to have a working life of 40 years.

Why such a plant

  • After it becomes operational next year, the plant will supply electricity to the Chukotka region, where important Russian national assets such as oil, gold, and coal reserves are located.
  • Some 50,000 people currently live in the area, and get their electricity from a coal power station and an ageing nuclear power plant.
  • The floating station would become the northernmost nuclear power project in the world.
  • Electricity supplied by floating power stations, without long-duration contracts or massive investments, is an option that island nations could consider.
  • Power from such small-sized plants can also be supplied to remote regions, as Russia plans to do.
  • Additionally, it is argued that nuclear power plants are a more climate-friendly option than coal-fired plants that emit greenhouse gases.

Fears and apprehensions

  • Environmental groups such as Greenpeace have criticised the project as a “Chernobyl on ice” and a “nuclear Titanic”.
  • Activists fear that any accident aboard the plant could cause great damage to the fragile Arctic region.
  • A recent nuclear accident in Russia after which there was a brief spike in radiation levels has added to the fears.
  • The radiation fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan is also cited as a reason to not rush into such projects.
Nuclear Energy

[pib] Indian Nuclear Insurance PoolPIB


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nuclear Insurance Pool

Mains level : Protective measures against nuclear hazards

  • The Government has created an Indian Nuclear Insurance Pool (INIP) in June 2015, a union minister informed in Lok Sabha.

Indian Nuclear Insurance Pool

  • M/s. General Insurance Corporation of India (GIC-Re), along with several other Indian Insurance Companies, have launched the Indian Nuclear Insurance Pool (INIP) with a capacity of ₹1500 crore.
  • This aims to provide insurance to cover the liability against accidents as prescribed under Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act, 2010.
  • This has addressed issues related to Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act and had facilitated commencement of work in setting up new nuclear power projects.


Nuclear Power in India

  • The present nuclear power capacity is 6780 MW comprising of 22 reactors.
  • There are 9 reactors with a capacity of 6700 MW (including 500 MW PFBR being implemented by BHAVINI) under construction.
  • The Government in 2017 has also accorded administrative approval and financial sanction of 12 nuclear power plants totaling to a capacity of 9000 MW.
  • On their progressive completion, the installed nuclear capacity is expected to reach 8180 MW by 2020 and 22480 MW by 2031.
Nuclear Energy

[pib] Thorium-Based Nuclear ReactorsPIBPriority 1


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Thorium based reacter

Mains level : India’s Three Stage Nuclear Programme

  • Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has planned the use of large deposits of Thorium available in the country as a long-term option.

Thorium-Based Nuclear Reactors

  • A three-stage nuclear power programme has been chalked out to use Thorium as a viable and sustainable option, right at the inception of India’s nuclear power programme.
  • The three stage nuclear power programme aims to multiply the domestically available fissile resource through the use of natural Uranium in Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors.
  • It is followed by the use of Plutonium obtained from the spent fuel of Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors in Fast Breeder Reactors.

Why Thorium?

  • The utilization of Thorium, as a practically inexhaustible energy source, has been contemplated during the third stage of the Indian Nuclear Programme.
  • As is the case with generation of electricity from Uranium, there will be no emission of green house gases from Thorium also and therefore, it will be a clean source of energy.
  • It is not possible to build a nuclear reactor using Thorium (Thorium-232) alone due to its physics characteristics.
  • Thorium has to be converted to Uranium-233 in a reactor before it can be used as fuel.


India’s Three Stage Nuclear Programme

  • India’s three-stage nuclear power programme was formulated by Homi Bhabha in the 1950s to secure the country’s long term energy independence, through the use of uranium and thorium reserves found in the monazite sands of coastal regions of South India.
  • The ultimate focus of the programme is on enabling the thorium reserves of India to be utilised in meeting the country’s energy requirements.
  • Thorium is particularly attractive for India, as it has only around 1–2% of the global uranium reserves, but one of the largest shares of global thorium reserves at about 25% of the world’s known thorium reserves.
  • However, thorium is more difficult to use than uranium as a fuel because it requires breeding, and global uranium prices remain low enough that breeding is unnecessary.

Stage I – Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor

  • In the first stage of the programme, natural uranium fueled pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWR) produce electricity while generating plutonium-239 as by-product.
  • PHWRs was a natural choice for implementing the first stage because it had the most efficient reactor design in terms of uranium utilisation, and the existing Indian infrastructure in the 1960s allowed for quick adoption of the PHWR technology.

Stage II – Fast Breeder Reactor

  • In the second stage, fast breeder reactors (FBRs) would use a mixed oxide (MOX) fuel made from plutonium-239, recovered by reprocessing spent fuel from the first stage, and natural uranium.
  • In FBRs, plutonium-239 undergoes fission to produce energy, while the uranium-238 present in the mixed oxide fuel transmutes to additional plutonium-239.
  • Thus, the Stage II FBRs are designed to “breed” more fuel than they consume.

Stage III – Thorium Based Reactors

  • A Stage III reactor or an advanced nuclear power system involves a self-sustaining series of thorium-232–uranium-233 fuelled reactors.
  • This would be a thermal breeder reactor, which in principle can be refueled after its initial fuel charge – using only naturally occurring thorium.
  • According to the three-stage programme, Indian nuclear energy could grow to about 10 GW through PHWRs fueled by domestic uranium, and the growth above that would have to come from FBRs till about 50GW.
  • The third stage is to be deployed only after this capacity has been achieved. Full exploitation of India’s domestic thorium reserves will likely not occur until after the year 2050.
Nuclear Energy

[op-ed snap] Jaitapur: A risky and expensive projectop-ed snap


Mains Paper 3: Economy| Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basics of nuclear technology, AERB,IAEA, Indian nuclear Programme.

Mains level: The newscard discusses issues and challenges of EPR in a brief manner.


  1. The idea of nlems, in the past few months, the Modi government has taken several high-level steps towards actuating the project.


  1. Nuclear energy is undoubtedly most controversial, yet critical part for India’s future energy security. As we know India’s annual energy demand is expected to rise to 800 GW by 2032, it is very important to consider every source of energy in the optimum energy mix.
  2. Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project is a proposed 9900 Megawatt project of Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) at Madban village of Ratnagiri district in Maharashtra. If and when completed, Jaitapur “will be the largest nuclear power plant in the world”.


  1. An impact assessment report by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) has strongly criticized the nuclear power plant being proposed at Jaitapur in the Konkan region.
  2. The report has indicated that the project – which requires about 968 hectares of land panning five villages – will have a huge negative impact on the social as well as environmental development of not just these villages and the surrounding areas, but also on the Konkan region in general.
  3. The findings suggest that the government subverted facts and called fertile agricultural land barren. It also says that the Jaitapur project is sitting on a high to moderate severity earthquake zone.


  1. The urgency is inexplicable as it comes before the techno-commercial offer has been examined and as earlier questions about costs and safety remain unanswered.
  2. Moreover, with the Indian power sector facing surplus capacity and a crisis of non-performing assets (NPAs), a large investment in the Jaitapur project is particularly risky.


  1. It is clear that electricity from the Jaitapur project will be more expensive than many other sources of electricity, including solar and wind power.
  2. Using international estimates of capital costs for EPRs from the 2010-2012 period, it is argued that first year tariffs would be around 15 per kilowatt-hour.

Delays and cost overrun

  1. Across the world, EPRs have experienced delays and cost increases. For instance, the first EPR entered commercial operation in December 2018 at the Taishan site in China, five years later than originally projected.
  2. Its final capital cost was estimated by industry sources to be “40% over the original estimate

High capital cost and NPA

  1. The high capital costs of the EPRs are of particular concern because power-generating capacity in India has grown faster than demand causing projects to run into financial difficulties.
  2. In March 2018, the parliamentary standing committee on energy listed 34 “stressed” projects, including NPAs and “those which have the potential to become NPAs”, with a cumulative outstanding debt of 1.74 lakh crore.
  3. The NPCIL’s debts would ultimately be underwritten by the Indian government, if the project encounters financial difficulties, the costs would fall on Indian taxpayers.

Safety problems

  1. Safety problems with the reactor design and construction have emerged in several EPRs. The most serious of these pertained to the pressure vessel, which is the key barrier that prevents the spread of radioactive materials from the reactor.
  2. For instance, the EPR at Olkiluoto in Finland encountered problems with vibrations in the pipe that connects the primary coolant system with the pressuriser, which maintains the pressure of the water circulating in the reactor.

Indian nuclear Liability law issue

  1. The safety concerns are exacerbated by India’s flawed nuclear liability law. In the event of an accident, the nuclear liability law would require the public sector NPCIL to compensate victims and pay for clean-up, while largely absolving EDF of responsibility.
  2. Further, the Indian law provides NPCIL with a limited opportunity to obtain compensation from the French company Électricité de France (EDF) for the “supply of equipment… with… defects… or sub-standard services”.
  3. The “enforcement of India’s rules” in accordance with the international Convention on Supplementary Compensation for nuclear damage, which severely limits the operator’s (NPCIL) right of recourse, i.e. not to exercise its right to claim compensation from EDF as allowed by Indian law.
  4. Thus, thereby EDF can escape with limited or no consequences even after a severe accident, having little material incentive to maintain the highest safety standards, particularly if the requirements of safety come into conflict with the imperative to lower costs.

Data secrecy

  • There is little public data about the EPRs being built in China, but these prices are consistent with those proposed for EPRs in Britain and indicate that each Indian reactor may cost as much as Rs. 60,000 crore.

Way forward

  1. Nuclear energy, though is critical for India’s energy security but is not panacea for the problem. People of India have right to have safe and sustainable energy.
  2. So future development should depend upon cost benefit analysis taking into account all the externalities involved in various components of energy mix.
  3. If this is done, it is most likely that policy will get incline strongly in favor of non-conventional sources of energy that is solar, wind and biomass.


Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR)

  • The PWR uses regular water as a coolant.
  • The primary cooling water is kept at very high pressure so it does not boil.
  • Pressurized water reactors (PWRs) constitute the large majority of all Western nuclear power plants.
  • In a PWR, the primary coolant (water) is pumped under high pressure to the reactor core where it is heated by the energy generated by the fission of atoms.
  • The heated water then flows to a steam generator where it transfers its thermal energy to a secondary system where steam is generated and flows to turbines which, in turn, spin an electric generator.
  • In contrast to a boiling water reactor, pressure in the primary coolant loop prevents the water from boiling within the reactor.
  • PWRs were originally designed to serve as nuclear marine propulsion for nuclear submarines.
Nuclear Energy

27th Fusion Energy Conference begins in GandhinagarIOCR

Image result for 27th Fusion Energy Conference begins in Gandhinagar


Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: FEC 2018, Nuclear Fusion Reaction

Mains level: International cooperation in the fields peaceful use of nuclear energy.



  • The 27th Fusion Energy Conference (FEC 2018) is being held in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.

FEC 2018

  1. The event is organised by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and hosted by the Department of Atomic Energy and Gandhinagar-based Institute of Plasma Research.
  2. It aims to provide a forum for the discussion of key physics and technology issues as well as innovative concepts of direct relevance to the use of nuclear fusion as a source of energy.
  3. Experts from across the world will discuss the new challenges being faced by the fusion community in the light of a number of next-step fusion devices being implemented currently.
  4. Scientists across the world are collaborating to use nuclear fusion, the reaction that powers the Sun and the stars, as source energy.
  5. The conference will also set these results against the backdrop of the requirements for a net energy producing fusion device and a fusion power plant in general, and will thus help in defining the way forward.


Nuclear Fusion

Everything that you need to know about recent advances in Nuclear Fusion

Nuclear Energy

India’s first indigenously developed fast breeder reactor at Kalpakkam may achieve criticality in 2019Prelims OnlyPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: PFBR

Mains level: India’s bid for cleaner energy.


Maiden PFBR

  1. The country’s first indigenously developed 500-megawatt (mw) prototype fast breeder reactor at Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu is expected to achieve criticality next year.
  2. The indigenously developed prototype fast breeder reactor of 500 mw is now undergoing sodium commissioning.
  3. Achieving criticality means that the reactor is fully operational and safe.

About Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR)

  1. The Kalpakkam PFBR is using uranium-238 not thorium, to breed new fissile material, in a sodium-cooled fast reactor design.
  2. The power island of this project is being engineered by Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited, largest power equipment utility of India.
  3. The surplus plutonium (or uranium-233 for thorium reactors) from each fast reactor can be used to set up more such reactors and grow the nuclear capacity in tune with India’s needs for power.
  4. India has the capability to use thorium cycle based processes to extract nuclear fuel.
  5. This is of special significance to the Indian nuclear power generation strategy as India has one of the world’s largest reserves of thorium, which could provide power for more than 10,000 year.
  6. Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam (Bhavini), a public sector company under DAE, has been given the responsibility to build the fast breeder reactors in the country.
Nuclear Energy

India puts four more nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguardsIOCRPrelims OnlyPriority 1


Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: IAEA

Mains level: India’s role in maintaining nuclear safeguards to a global standards.


More reactors under global watchdog

  1. India has decided to place four more reactors under the IAEA safeguards.
  2. Accordingly, two Russian-designed Pressurized Light Water Reactors and two Pressurized Heavy Reactors being built with Indian technology will be covered.
  3. With this, a total of 26 Indian nuclear facilities will be under the international nuclear energy watchdog.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safeguards

  1. These are a system of inspection and verification of the peaceful uses of nuclear materials as part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), supervised by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
  2. It also contributes to nuclear arms control and disarmament, by responding to requests for verification and technical assistance associated with related agreements and arrangements.
  3. The Divisions of Operations are organized as follows:
  • Operations A: conducting safeguards inspections in East Asia and Australasia
  • Operations B: conducting safeguards inspections in the Middle East (Southwest Asia), South Asia, Africa and the Americas; this geographic region also includes non-EU European states
  • Operations C: conducting safeguards inspection in the European Union states, Russia and Central Asia
  • Operations for verification in Iranian Nuclear Deal.
Nuclear Energy

Give atomic regulator legal teeth: IAEA

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has suggested the government embed in law the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) as an independent regulatory body.

  1. IAEA recommended that the AERB review the implementation of its policies and existing arrangements to ensure its independence as a regulator.
  2. IAEA has said that in order to ensure the independence of the regulatory body is clear and transparent
  3. Government should strengthen the legislative framework by creating in law the AERB, as a regulatory body separated from entities having responsibilities or interests that could unduly influence its decision making.
Nuclear Energy

AERB is working on a strategy to segregate high-level radioactive waste

  1. In India, we recycle the spent fuel and process the plutonium and other material and reuse them.
  2. The remaining radioactive waste, mainly the actinides, is vitrified and stored at safe storage.
  3. Work is going on further segregating these minor actinides which are responsible for the longer shelf life of the radioactive waste.
Nuclear Energy

IAEA: Separate AERB from other entities

  1. After a 12-day review, IAEA recommended that AERB (Atomic Energy Regulatory Board) should be made an independent statutory body.
  2. In its current form, the head of the AERB reports to the Atomic Energy Commission, which incidentally is headed by the chairman of the Department of Atomic Energy.
  3. Following the Fukushima disaster, a bill to set up an independent Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA) was introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2011.
  4. It was not passed, and it lapsed in 2014 after the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.
Nuclear Energy

AERB to enhance regulation of diagnostic x-ray facilities

  1. AERB has taken up the matter with the State Governments / Union Territories for formation of State level Directorates of Radiation Safety (DRS).
  2. These would work under the Health & Family Welfare Department of the respective State Governments/Union Territories.
Nuclear Energy

Lessons from Japan for India on Nuclear Energy

  1. For many in Tokyo, a disaster caused largely by a tsunami triggered by an earthquake in 2011 opened a can of worms over how the government regulated its nuclear backyard.
  2. News reports opined that the lack of proper autonomy of Japan’s nuclear regulator curbed its effectiveness.
  3. Japan’s ministry of economy, trade and industry regulates the nuclear power industry, and also promotes nuclear technology. These two aims work at cross-purposes.

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