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Union Cabinet Approves Proposal to Build 10 Atomic Reactors

The Union Cabinet has cleared a proposal allowing for the construction of 10 indigenous Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR). The reactors will have a capacity of 700 MW. These reactors will add 7000 MW capacity and will ramp up nuclear power generation in the country.

Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors

Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors use natural uranium as fuel and heavy water as both moderator and coolant. India’s first PHWR was constructed at Rawatbhata in Rajasthan in technical cooperation with the Atomic Energy Canada Ltd (AECL). However, the Canada’s support was immediately withdrawn after India’s first nuclear experiment at Pokhran in 1974. India’s first nuclear power plant with a different design was built at Tarapur in Maharashtra. PHWR units are in operation in Rawatbhata, Kaiga, Kakrapar, Kalpakkam and Narora. Recently, it was announced that the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) is ready to sell Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors of 220 MWe or 540 MWe capacity to other countries.

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Atomic Energy (Amendment) Bill, 2015 introduced in Lok Sabha to fast track nuclear power projects

Union Government has introduced Atomic Energy (Amendment) Bill, 2015 to facilitate and fast track setting up of new nuclear projects in the country.

It was introduced by Union Minister of State (MoS) for Atomic Energy and Space Dr Jitendra Singh. The Bill seeks to amend the Atomic Energy Act, 1962.

Key provisions of the Atomic Energy (Amendment) Bill, 2015

Under the Act, a government company is one in which at least 51% of the paid-up share capital is held by the central government.  Paid-up share capital is the capital received by a company from the issue of shares.

  • Redefines paid-up share capital: Expands the definition of paid-up share capital in parent Act to include joint ventures (JV) of public sector undertakings (PSUs).
  • The whole of the paid up share capital would be held by one or more PSUs and empowers the Union government to constitute its Board of Directors for such JV.
  • Licenses: Henceforth it will only be granted to entities such as a government company or a department of Union Government.
  • Under the parent Act, license is required for acquisition, production, use, export and import of any plant designed for the production and development of atomic energy or research.
  • License granted will be cancelled if it ceases to be a government company for (i) acquiring and using substances or minerals from which atomic energy can be obtained (ii) producing atomic energy etc.

Comment

The amendment to Atomic Energy Act, 1962 has been proposed to facilitate the fast expansion of nuclear power and its generation in the country to meet electricity demand. The passage of Bill would enable Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCI) to enter into joint ventures (JVs) with other public sector undertakings (PSUs) for civil nuclear power projects.

Note: The Atomic Energy Act, 1962 empowers the Union government to produce, develop, control, and use atomic energy.

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Japan nuclear reactor for first time start operations since Fukushima Nuclear disaster

Japan for the first time has switched on a nuclear reactor nearly two years after all nuclear power stations were closed aftermath of the Fukushima disaster of 2011.

The No 1 reactor at Sendai plant of Kyushu Electric Power started its operations and within few days it will start producing full power. The second Sendai reactor will restart its operation later in October 2015.

Approval to start reactor was given by Japan’s apex regulator, Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) based on stricter safety rules imposed after the 2011 accident.

Fukushima Nuclear disaster

  • In March 2011, Fukushima Nuclear disaster, an energy accident had occurred in Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant located in northeastern Japan. It was triggered by a powerful earthquake and followed by tsunami.
  • It is the largest nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 and the second disaster (along with Chernobyl) to measure Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale.
  • It had displaced more than 100,000 people due to radioactive contamination. The disaster had spurred a national and international debate over safety issue related nuclear power.
  • After this catastrophic nuclear disaster, Japan had closed all its nuclear power plants over the safety issue.

Importance of nuclear power to Japan

  • Prior to Fukushima crisis in 2011 which had shattered atomic energy in Japan, nuclear power was main integral source of electricity for the energy hungry industrial country.
  • It accounted for nearly quarter of Japan’s electricity production. Being resource-scarce country it was completly depended on reliance of nuclear power for its energy security.
  • But after the Fukushima crisis, Japan had increased the imports and production of gas, oil and coal to overcome the energy deficit.
  • By March 2015, about 91 per cent of Japan’s electricity came from imported fossil fuels which had led to large trade deficits and increased the electricity prices by more than 20 per cent.
  • The trade and energy deficit had resulted in dampening of Japan’s economic activity leading to curtailed tax revenues.

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