Alternative to Nuclear Plants in India

Lena Hong
June 1, 2016

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2016


Fig. 1: Kudankulam power plant. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Nuclear power for public use is well developed in India. Currently, nuclear power is the fourth largest energy source for electricity in India. India had planned to expand its realm of nuclear powers. when the Fukushima nuclear crisis had hit Japan. As the nuclear crisis escalated in Japan, the voice of concern for the danger of nuclear energy became louder globally, and India was no exception. Globally, there was hesitancy in the nuclear power industry. India's nuclear power plants had been directing Asia on a energy-intensive growth trajectory. Since conventional fuels deplete, nuclear energy was a power source of energy. However, with the growth of public concern and growing negative perception, it would have been difficult for the government to push through its plans for expansion of nuclear power. There have multiple protests against the Russian-supported Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu. [1] (See Fig.1.) The state government of West Bengal state has also refused permission to a proposed 6000 MW facility near the town of Haripur that intended to host six Russian reactors. Then, what alternatives to current nuclear powers exist became the next question in hand. [2]

An element discussed as an alternative fuel for nuclear energy is thorium which is less radioactive and produces less nuclear waste than uranium. Thorium is a naturally occurring metal and is more abundant than uranium. India actually has been making some process in producing thorium-based fuels, hoping to reach the goal of becoming "energy-independent" with sufficient thorium resources. [3]

Natural gas was also suggested and explored as a viable alternative to nuclear power. Natural gas has half the carbon content of coal and little of other greenhouse gases. Even the technology to produce and distribute natural gas is fairly well established. Natural gas is a versatile fuel that can be used among wide range of applications such as power generation, industrial purposes, and even feedstock in fertilizers and petrochemicals. Already, natural gas makes up nearly a quarter of the energy basket of developed countries. However, in India, the portion of natural gas in its commercial energy was less than 10 percent as of 2011. [2] Recognized as a highly valuable national resource, the Indian government took a lead in its application in power plants along the western and northern belts and built a connective pipeline network. The pipeline network extends 10,000 km with more to be added.

In August 2015, a power plant operator in southern Japan ended the nuclear shutdown that followed the Fukushima crisis. The plant was the first to begin operating under new safety regulations. With Japan picking its pace back up with nuclear powers, India along with other parts of the world may halt on looking at alternative options.

© Lena Hong. 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. Srivastava, India's Rising Nuclear Safety Concerns," Asia Sentinel, 27 Oct 11.

[2] S. Mahalingam, An Alterantive to Nuclear Power," The Hindu, 27 Apr 11.

[3] L. Pham, "Considering an Alternative Fuel for Nuclear Energy," New York Times, 19 Oct 09.