India Nuclear Power Expansion

Joab Camarena
February 16, 2016

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2016


Fig. 1: Nuclear Power Plant in Narora, India. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The beginnings of the nuclear power conversation are traced back to Dr. Homi Bhaba, who developed the three-stage nuclear power development program in 1954. This proposition was grounded in the ideal of creating an energy independent country, by utilizing uranium and thorium reserves found along South India. Dr. Bhaba's three-pronged development program to make India energy independent was stated as the following: [1]

  1. To develop natural uranium fueled pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs)

  2. To develop fast breeder reactors utilizing mix oxide fuel from the recovered Pu-239 by product created by PHWRs (Fig. 1)

  3. To develop an advanced nuclear power systems relying on thorium

India's ambitious plans are rooted in the fact that the country has approximately 400 million people without access to electricity. In a stride to find sustainable economic growth in a quickly growing country, which finds itself pressed for resources, acquiring long-term reliable energy supply and meeting the nation's energy need ultimately became an important goal. India's energy approach as a whole has usually been discussed by students who have taken this class in the past, so focus will placed on the India's most current developments. [2]

Thorium Power: The Next Move

In 2011, India declared plans to begin exploiting thorium reserves, stating that they were a much better alternative to uranium. Plutonium is not a by-product of thorium, which makes its role in nuclear development quite significant. Much of the nuclear risk is attributed to plutonium as this byproduct can be utilized for weapons making. It is claimed that thorium discharge is rather minimal as it is more completely used by reactors than natural uranium. Further, there are myriad of reserves found throughout India, the total amount dwarfing the available uranium in India. The processing time is minimal, relative to uranium, and thorium can generate 40 times more energy per ton. Thorium reactors are even safer power plants when compared to uranium plants as they can be completely controlled by their operator. [2,3]


Nuclear power is among the five top energy sources of India, and by 2013, India had twenty-one working nuclear reactors within seven nuclear power plants. With desires to scale up domestic energy output, their goals have been impeded by the ethical considerations surrounding nuclear power. This final stage of the nuclear development program can be considered still in its infancy, although it was established that this final step would further ascend India into complete energy autonomy. It is disappointing to find that stage I and stage II of India's nuclear program has been executed successfully, yet Stage III has faltered. The potential and opportunity India can have by entering into stage III of its program is incredible. India is truly in a unique position, where by successfully executing thorium based nuclear power systems, they can demonstrate to the world the potential of nuclear power once again and hopefully fuel global investment of what can be deemed as the world's next best energy source. [1-3]

© Joab Camarena. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] S. Parekh. "India's Three Stage Nuclear Program," Physics 241, Stanford University, Winter 2014.

[2] T. Ünak, "What is the Potential Use of Thorium in the Future Energy Production Technology?" Prog. Nucl. Energy 37, 137 (2000).

[3] D. Davis, "Thorium and Nuclear Energy in India," Physics 241, Stanford University, Winter 2015.