Nuclear power is the fourth-largest source of electricity in India after thermal, hydroelectric and renewable sources of electricity.
India’s first research nuclear reactor and its first nuclear power plant were built with assistance from Canada. The 40 MW research reactor agreement was signed in 1956, and CIRUS achieved first criticality in 1960. This reactor was supplied to India on the assurance that it would not be used for military purposes, but without effective safeguards against such use. The agreement for India’s first nuclear power plant at Rajasthan, RAPP-1, was signed in 1963, followed by RAPP-2 in 1966. These reactors contained rigid safeguards to ensure they would not be used for
a military Programme.
India drew up “an ambitious plan to reach a nuclear power capacity of 63,000 MW in 2032” but, after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, “populations around proposed Indian NPP sites have launched protests. A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has also been filed against the government’s civil nuclear programme at the Supreme Court.
India has been making advances in the field of thorium-based fuels, working to design and develop a prototype for an atomic reactor using thorium and low-enriched uranium, a key part of India’s three stage nuclear power programme. The country has also recently re-initiated its involvement in the LENR research activities, in addition to supporting work done in the fusion power area through the ITER initiative.
The United States and Canada terminated their assistance after the detonation of India’s first nuclear explosion in 1974.
India’s domestic uranium reserves are small and the country is dependent on uranium imports to fuel its nuclear power industry. Since the early 1990s, Russia has been a major supplier of nuclear fuel to India.
India has signed bilateral deals on civilian nuclear energy technology cooperation with several other countries, including France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and South Korea. India has also uranium supply agreements with Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Argentina and Namibia. An Indian private company won a uranium exploration contract in Niger.
Indian President A.P.J.Abdul Kalam, stated while he was in office, that “energy independence is India’s first and highest priority. India has to go for nuclear power generation in a big way using thorium-based reactors. Thorium, a non-fissile material is available in abundance in our country.” India has vast thorium reserves and quite limited uranium reserves.
By 2020, India’s installed nuclear power generation capacity will increase to 20,000 MW.
South Korea became the latest country to sign a nuclear agreement with India after it got the waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) in 2008. On 25 July 2011 India and South Korea signed a nuclear agreement, which will allow South Korea with a legal foundation to participate in India’s nuclear expansion programme, and to bid for constructing nuclear power plants in India.