Nuclear Power Sector and Its Initial Challenges
The introduction of nuclear power in India started in the decade 1966-76. It was introduced in the western, northern, and southern regions of India because of its distance from coal fields, which are largely concentrated in the eastern and central parts of the country. It was a very challenging situation for the govt. to continue supplying coal over long distances to the thermal stations. Especially in the southern region of India where the bulk of electricity was traditionally provided by hydroelectric power, besides this due to successive failures of the monsoons excessive load shedding had become a common phenomenon.
On the other side, Power production from oil and gas was never seriously considered in India, since a substantial portion of our requirements has to be imported. Due to an increase in oil prices, power production by using oil became costly. So, the power production in India continues to rely on coal power and hydropower and, increasingly over the years, on nuclear power.
Nuclear power in India has suffered from generally low capacity factors and one of the main reasons for the low capacity factors is the lack of nuclear fuel. In 1956, construction began at Trombay on a uranium metal plant for the research reactors and the uranium plant came into operation in January 1959, followed by the fuel element facility in February 1960.
Since that time, in the field of thorium-based fuels, India has been making advances by working on the design and developing many prototypes for atomic reactors using thorium and low-enriched uranium.
Some Major Thermal Indian Power Plants
|Sipat Thermal Power Plant
|Korba Super Thermal Power Plant
|Rihand Thermal Power Plant
|Jharsuguda Thermal Power Plant
|Tiroda Thermal Power Plant
|Mundra Thermal Power Plant
|Vindhyachal Thermal Power Plant
|Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh
|Talcher Super Thermal Power Plant
|Anpara Thermal Power Plant
|Barauni Thermal Power Plant
Operational Nuclear Power Plants in India
Growth Scenario of the Power Sector of India After 1947
In India, the total power generating capacity from all sources of power has increased from 1,362 MW in 1947 to 379.1 GW by 28th February 2021. India’s electricity sector is dominated by coal-based thermal power plants, which accounted for about three-fourths of the total electricity produced in the country in 2021.
After 1947, the Government of India made electricity a concurrent subject (in which laws can be made both by the Union and the State governments) by the Electricity Act, of 1948 the State Electricity Boards (SEBs) started representing the states to generate electricity production. Thus all new power generation and distribution that was not served by private utilities came under the purview of State and Central government agencies. Still, at that time, Nuclear power development is a slower pace, which was introduced, in the last 60s. For the first five years plan, the power supply industry has been under constant pressure to bridge the gap between supply and demand.
Let’s discuss the topic by dividing the process of power generation in India into three time periods:
The starting phase of the First Five-Year Plan (1951-1956), was the beginning of the planned development of electric power. At that time the private sector then controlled only 12% of the generation while the rest was under the public sector. During this period Electricity Boards had been set up in various states in the year 1956. the first Electricity Board was set up in West Bengal. Before the introduction of five-year plans, the size of each generating unit was 15MW, which has increased to 650MW today. During the early 1960s, to generate electricity process regionally self-sufficient, govt was decided to divide the country into five regions grids, i.e. Southern, Northern, North-Eastern, Western and Eastern.
From, the Fifth Five-Years Plan (1974-79), the Government itself was involved in a big way in the generation and bulk transmission of power to supplement the efforts at the State level and set up The National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and National Hydro-electric Power Corporation (NHPC) in 1975. Later in 1976, govt set up North-Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) to implement the regional power projects in the North-East, again in 1988 govt was set up Nathpa Jhakri Power Corporation (NJPC) and Tehri Hydro Development Corporation (THDC). In 1989, to operate and maintain the inter-State and interregional transmission systems govt. created the National Power Transmission Corporation (NPTC).
The government of India announced the Policy Of Liberalization in the year 1991 and amendments in the Electricity Supply Act to open a new path to involve private efforts and investments in the electricity industry of India. According to the act, private generating companies can set up power-generating facilities and can sell the power in bulk to the grid or other persons. Now it is permissible that up to a hundred per cent foreign equity participation can be permitted for the projects to set up power plants by foreign private investors in the Indian Electricity Sector.