India’s biggest nuclear energy conference organised in Mumbai

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India’s biggest nuclear energy conference organised in Mumbai 

Closely following the conclusion of the United Nations COP28 climate change summit in Dubai, UAE, India’s biggest nuclear energy conference – INSIC-2023 – was held last month at Mumbai, on the theme “Nuclear for Clean Energy Transition”. 

The conference, organised jointly by the state-run operator Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and the Indian Nuclear Society (INS), brought together more than 450 representatives of 30 key government agencies and private companies operating in the nuclear industry. 

The conference focused on the need to increase the share of nuclear energy in India’s energy mix to achieve the country’s net zero carbon emission goals. India has set an ambitious target of reducing CO2 emissions by half by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2070, while nuclear power is to be an important element of this transition, replacing aging thermal power plants. 

Besides the NPCIL, other companies present at the conference included the state-run thermal power generator NTPC, which is diversifying into nuclear energy, Larsen & Toubro, the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom, and the French state-run electricity utility EDF.  

In his inaugural address, NPCIL Chairman B.C. Pathak said that with the recent commissioning of the indigenously made 700 MW Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) in the country, NPCIL has demonstrated its capabilities in all facets of nuclear power, namely, design, construction, commissioning and operation.  

The second indigenously made 700 MW reactor at Kakrapar in Gujarat attained criticality last month. Pathak also said that nuclear capacity in the country is going to increase by 14,500 MW in the coming decade. 

The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) Director, Vivek Bhasin, who was the guest of honor, emphasized the need for accelerating the growth of nuclear power in order to replace fossil fuel-based power plants at a fast pace. 

“We are convinced that nuclear energy is the basis of the low-carbon mix, and small nuclear generation, as one of the reliable technological solutions, will take its rightful place in the nuclear energy of the future along with large plants,” Rosatom Project Director, Alexander Volgin said, while describing Russian solutions in the area of small modular reactors (SMRs). 

Rosatom officials also described how Russian technologies can facilitate nuclear material recycling as well as the diversification of the national resource base. 

“We invite our partners to organize the process based on a ‘balanced nuclear fuel cycle’ which makes it possible to recycle valuable resources, reduce waste generation as well as waste radiotoxicity. This is our safe and cost-effective solution to the issue of spent nuclear fuel management based on the sustainable development principles,” said Rosatom subsidiary Techsnabexport’s Deputy Director General, Elena Artemova.  

Among the companies present at INSIC 2023 in Mumbai was the US-based Clean Core Thorium Energy and its founder CEO Mehul Shah. Clean Core has developed a fuel, which is a mix of thorium and uranium of a certain level of enrichment called HALEU (High Assay Low Enriched Uranium). This new fuel is called ANEEL (Advanced Nuclear Energy for Enriched Life) and has been so named to honour the distinguished scientist and former chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Anil Kakodkar. 

The ANEEL fuel has potential for the future owing to the fact that India has the largest thorium reserves in the world. The country’s first thorium-based nuclear plant – “Bhavini” – is being set up at Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu state.  

Considering the country’s vast thorium resources, the long-term nuclear energy policy of India has been focused on utilisation of this resource for which a three-stage nuclear power program was envisaged in the 1950s. 

However, according to experts, the development of this ANEEL fuel is currently at a very preliminary stage and the timeline for its commercialisation has not yet been defined.