Supporting Indias Energy Quest Civil Nuclear Cooperation

Supporting Indias Energy Quest  Civil Nuclear Cooperation
Supporting Indias Energy Quest Civil Nuclear Cooperation

Backdrop There are several big challenges facing the world and without doubt, one of the biggest is how to produce clean sustainable energy to meet the aspirations of millions. On one hand, we have the United Kingdom where the world's first commercial nuclear power plant was built in the 1950s and such is the maturity of this industry in the UK that nearly all of the nuclear power plants with the exception of one will be shut down by 2030 as they reach the end of their design life. And on the other hand, we have India that is embarking on a programme to build an array of new nuclear power plants trotting the path that the UK has already traversed. The opportunity to collaborate could not be any clearer. It is driven by the global need to have cleaner, sustainable forms of energy. Need for cleaner energy In 2013, the UK government declared in its nuclear power strategy that nuclear energy has an important role to play in delivering the long-term objective of a secure, low-carbon, affordable, energy future. It also identified significant challenges that need to be met, both in the short term and for the longer term, to 2050 and beyond. The UK wants to maintain options for nuclear power making a major contribution to the longer-term energy mix. As India's economy grows, the demand for power will grow as there is a direct correlation between per capita GDP and electricity consumption. On top of meeting the increase in demand for electricity, India must meet its obligation to reduce emission of greenhouse gases. There is an urgent need to rely on cleaner forms of energy and India's ambition is to achieve it by increasing the nuclear contribution to 25 per cent by 2050. Trade barriers One of the stumbling blocks to India's civil nuclear power growth has been created by China that has indicated its unwillingness to support India's attempt to enter the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). China is blocking India's entry in the elite group on the grounds that NSG's rules disallow a member that has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). India's position is that it would not surrender its national interest by signing the accord but wants its track record of non-proliferation to be considered as it does meet the intent of the NPT, therefore, it is entitled to join the NSG. India will do its best to convince China and if the Chinese objection remains, all the signs are that India will continue and should continue with its plan to expand its civil nuclear power capacity to produce electricity. Innovation for future One of the areas where India has already raced ahead of the UK is in Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR) technology. Britain also has a need for an FBR which can be put to good use by burning the stockpile of nearly 100 tons of plutonium which is costing millions of pounds to store. The UK used to be active in research and development of FBR but that project has stalled and almost all of the FBR-related information lies dormant in its archives. Collaboration in development of FBR, where India has definitely taken a lead, is another opportunity worth considering. Small Modular Reactor (SMR) technology is another area ready for development and exploitation. SMRs are ideal for a large country like India, especially for strategic remote areas where there are no grid connections. The UK government is currently running a competition to fund development of an SMR which is clearly aimed at deployment in the UK and other countries. In addition to the SMRs, a much smaller and safer micro SMR like the U-Battery concept is worth considering for further development and even first deployment in India. Conclusion The opportunities for civil nuclear trade are ripe. The UK needs India as much as India needs the UK. We hope that the new UK policies emerging after the Brexit vote will help to foster relationships, remove barriers and create opportunities for British companies to offer their expertise in developing India's civil nuclear plants. The UK government, in its long-term nuclear energy strategy, has declared an intention to enhance strategic relationships with India to help realise these opportunities. A host of new business opportunities exists in the field of civil nuclear power. The time has come for India and Britain to build on their nuclear legacy and work together for one glorious future. The above are extracts from one of the chapters from 'Winning Partnership: India-UK Relations Beyond Brexit', edited by India Inc. Founder & CEO Manoj Ladwa.

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