NEW DELHI: If the Modi government has its way, India could produce 14,500 mw of nuclear power by 2024, almost a three-fold jump from the current level of 5,700 mw. That is a far cry from the government’s stated intent to reach 63,000 mw by 2032 but, nevertheless, underlines India’s commitment to nuclear energy as a way of reducing its reliance on fossil fuel.
Simultaneously, the government has sought to focus on renewables with the Union Cabinet earlier this year clearing a proposal for a five-fold jump in solar power by increasing its capacity to 100,000 mw by 2022.
PM Narendra Modi, much like his predecessor Manmohan Singh, sees an essential role for nuclear power in India’s energy mix. After decades of discrimination and international technology denial regimes, India finally managed to turn the tables in 2008 when it managed to get a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group to trade in nuclear equipment.
Countries like the US, Russia and France — all with major stakes in India’s nuclear energy market worth billions of dollars — helped India, a non-NPT signatory, get that waiver despite opposition from China. India continues to be the only country in the world to be able to carry out nuclear commerce despite not having signed the NPT. India believes it is an acknowledgement of its impeccable non-proliferation track record.
One reason why India got the waiver was a statement at the NSG by then foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee that the country would abide by its commitment to unilateral and voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing. Mukherjee had said the waiver to India to conduct nuclear commerce would also have positive impact on global energy security.
Apart from the US, Russia and France, India now has entered into cooperation for peaceful uses of nuclear energy with at least seven other countries. These include South Korea, Namibia, Canada, Australia and Kazakhstan. India also signed an MoU for the same with Japan last week. This is significant also because it will allow major US vendors to source equipment from their Japanese partners.
Japanese PM Shinzo Abe finally clinched the agreement with India after he expressed satisfaction with India’s unilateral and voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing, as expressed before the NSG in 2008.
The agreement with Canada and Australia are also particularly significant for India as these countries are the main exporters of uranium to the world. To facilitate the deal with India, former Canadian PM Stephen Harper made an exception when his government agreed to go by IAEA assurances alone over any possible misuse of uranium supplies to India.
In November, Australia too announced that it had completed negotiations with India for administrative arrangements required to bring into force its civil nuclear cooperation agreement with New Delhi. This again was an acknowledgement of India’s non-proliferation credentials as Australia had long vacillated over whether or not it wanted to supply uranium to a country which had no intention of signing the NPT.