Nuclear power way cheaper than others, says govt

Nuclear power way cheaper than others, says govt

Nuclear power is substantially cheaper than most types of thermal sources of energy and hydro-electricity, claims the NDA government as it fast-tracked India’s nuclear energy target by three times.

Soon after coming to power in July, 2014, the Narendra Modi government had set a target of tripling the existing nuclear capacity of 4780 MW in the next ten years. Last week, the government told Parliament why it made economic sense to harness the power of atom.

The per unit cost of electricity from the nuclear source varies between 97-394 paise.

This is comparable to non-pithead coal (375-529 paise), which is ferried to a power plant located at a distance as well as pithead coal (147-385) where the plant is located at the mine site.

All other sources of thermal energy such as natural gas with and without the control of the administrative price mechanism, liquefied natural gas and liquid fuel like naptha or diesel, are far more expensive. Nuclear power plants, however, are more capital intensive than coal or gas fired plants.

“Even for hydro-power, the per unit tariff range from 79-591 paise per unit,” Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh told Lok Sabha responding to a question. The per unit costs of natural gas, LNG and diesel or naptha based power plants are more than nuclear.

“The size of indigenous pressurised heavy water reactors has increased from 220 MW to 540 MW and further to 700 MW to gain from economies of scale, standardisation, improvement in design and efficiency and optimisation of gestation period,” he said.

Four 700 MW units are under construction at Rawatbhatta in Rajasthan and Kakrapar in Gujarat. The construction of two 700 MW units in Gorakhpur in Haryana are slated to start in 2015-16.

Anti-nuclear points
Prominent anti-nuclear campaigner and Princeton University scientist M V Ramanna, however, argued economics was still not in favour of nuclear energy. Giving a presentation at Ohio State University two weeks ago, Ramanna quoted a 2009 study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to claim while nuclear energy costs 8.4 cent per kilowatt/ hour in the USA, both coal and gas cost in the range of 6.2-6.5 cent.

There are past studies suggesting that with the existing level of technology, the renewable energy cannot compete seriously with thermal, nuclear or hydro-power.

The second 1000 MW unit at the Kudankulam plant is likely to be commissioned in 2015. The large uranium mine and process plant at Tummalapalle in Andhra Pradesh is expected to start production soon.

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