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Forget Paris: India Slashes Plans For New Nuclear Reactors By Two-Thirds, Expanding Coal Instead

Dan Yurman, Energy Post

India has decided to cut its planned nuclear power plant construction by two-thirds. This will further expand the country’s use of coal for electrical power generation

The Financial Express, one of India’s major newspapers, reports that the Narendra Modi government, which had set an ambitious 63,000 MW nuclear power capacity addition target by the year 2031-32, has cut it to 22,480 MW, or by roughly two-thirds.

Current status of India’s Nuclear Energy Program. Image courtesy of NucNet

The decision has enormous implications for expanding use of coal for electrical power generation and for release of CO2, other greenhouse gases, and for adding to India’s dire air pollution problems in its major cities.

The drastic reduction in planned construction of new reactors will diminish India’s plans to rely on nuclear energy from 25% of electrical generation to about 8-10%. The balance of new power requirements will likely be met by use of India’s enormous coal deposits.

It appears that India’s long list of nuclear reactors, which at one time it aspired to build, is now in the dustbin. Instead, a much shorter list of 19 units composed of indigenous 700 MW PHWRs and Russian VVERs will be completed for an additional 17 GWE.

Jitendra Singh, Minister of State for India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) said.“With the completion of the under construction and sanctioned projects, the total nuclear power installed capacity in the country will reach 22,480 MW… by the year 2031.”

He added. “progressive completion of the projects under construction, the installed nuclear power capacity will reach 13,480 MW by the year 2024”, which will be a little less than 14,340 MW target.

The list of 57 cancelled reactors also includes 700 MW PHWRs and Russian VVERs. […]

Greater reliance on coal is expected

The country accounts for eight percent of world’s total coal consumption. About two-thirds of India’s electricity generation comes from coal.

With a major cut in planned new construction of nuclear reactors, the country will rely more heavily on building coal fired power plants. India holds the fifth biggest coal reserves in the world. The country’s proved coal reserves are estimated at 61 billion tonnes. India accounts for about seven percent of the world’s total proved coal reserves.

India is the third biggest coal producer, after China and the US. India produces about six percent of the world’s total as officially reported but this number is undoubtedly higher. India’s coal mines are owned by the government but operated by private firms.

It also imports coal and is the world’s third biggest coal importer (200M tonnes in 2017) after China and Japan. According to the Ministry of Coal, coking coal is being imported by Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) and other steel manufacturing units mainly to bridge the gap between the requirement and indigenous availability and to improve the quality.

Coal based power plants, cement plants, captive power plants, iron foundries, industrial consumers and coal traders are importing non-coking coal. Coke is imported mainly by pig-iron manufacturers and iron and steel sector consumers using small blast furnaces.

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