The Indian government, which had set the ambitious target of 63,000 MW of nuclear power capacity by 2031-32, has reduced it to 22,480 MW.1 "With the completion of the under construction and sanctioned projects, the total nuclear power installed capacity in the country will reach 22,480 MW… by the year 2031," said Minister Jitendra Singh.
The new target is a little over one-third of the target of 63,000 MW by the year 2031-32, announced by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) in April 2015.
In 2015, the 2024 target was 47,80 MW; now, the 2024 target is 13,480 MW according to the Minister.
Pro-nuclear commentator Dan Yurman wrote:2
"It appears that India's long list of nuclear reactors, which at one time it aspired to build, is now in the dust bin. Instead, a much shorter list of 19 units composed of indigenous 700 MW PHWRs and Russian VVERs will be completed for an additional 17 GWE. ... The list of 57 cancelled reactors also includes 700 MW PHWRs and Russian VVERs. In addition it includes future plans for Areva EPRs and Westinghouse AP1000s. Four fast breeder reactors are part of this list which raises questions about India's policy commitment to its three phase plan for nuclear energy.
"While the Department of Atomic Energy did not specify the reasons for the change, it is likely that India has come face-to-face with the same reality that other developing nations seeking rapid construction of nuclear power plants. The challenges are the lack of funding, a reliable supply chain that can handle a huge increase in orders, and a trained workforce to build and operate the plants at the planned level of activity."
Will India meet the new target of 22,480 MW by 2031? Not likely given that current capacity is 6,200 MW, reactors under construction amount to 4,350 MW capacity, and nuclear power accounted for just 3.2% of electricity generation in 2017.
Yurman warned about the implications of the underperforming nuclear sector: "The decision has enormous implications for expanding use of coal for electrical power generation and for release of CO2, other greenhouse gases, and for adding to India's dire air pollution problems in its major cities. The drastic reduction in planned construction of new reactors will diminish India's plans to rely on nuclear energy from 25% of electrical generation to about 8-10%. The balance of new power requirements will likely be met by use of India's enormous coal deposits."
However a recent Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) report found that the cost of wind and solar power has declined dramatically over the past year in India, well beyond the global average. According to BNEF: "Taking India as an example, BNEF is now showing benchmark LCOEs [levelized costs of electricity] for onshore wind of just $39 per MWh, down 46% on a year ago, and for solar PV at $41, down 45%. By comparison, coal comes in at $68 per MWh, and combined-cycle gas at $93. Wind-plus-battery and solar-plus-battery systems in India have wide cost ranges, of $34-208 per MWh and $47-308 per MWh respectively, depending on project characteristics, but the center of those ranges is falling fast."
Research released by Greenpeace India in December 2017 found that at least 65% of India's coal power generation in financial year 2016 – representing 94 GW of installed capacity – was being sold to distribution companies at a higher cost than power from new renewable energy projects.4 The analysis showed that replacing the most expensive coal power plants with electricity generated by solar PV and wind would save consumers up to 54,000 crores (US$8.3 billion) annually. Just replacing older, expensive plants – those older than 20 years – would still yield 20,000 crore (US$3 billion) in reduced power purchase costs annually.
1. Pragya Srivastava, 5 April 2018, 'Modi government cuts nuclear power capacity addition target to one-third', www.financialexpress.com/economy/modi-government-cuts-nuclear-power-capa...
2. Dan Yurman, 6 April 2018, 'India Slashes Plans for New Nuclear Reactors by Two-Thirds', https://neutronbytes.com/2018/04/06/india-slashes-plans-for-new-nuclear-...
3. Bloomberg New Energy Finance, 28 March 2018, 'Tumbling Costs for Wind, Solar, Batteries Are Squeezing Fossil Fuels', https://about.bnef.com/blog/tumbling-costs-wind-solar-batteries-squeezin...
4. Greenpeace India, 21 December 2017, 'Win-win: India can save 54,000 crore in power costs and reduce air pollution by replacing expensive coal plants with renewables', www.greenpeace.org/india/en/Press/Win-win-India-can-save-54000-crore-in-...