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India had largest number of new N-plants in 2000
R. Senthilnathan, Geneva
May 05, 2001 14:50 Hrs (IST)

NDIA'S nuclear power sector may be tiny compared to that of many western nations, but last year the country was the star as it had the largest number of new reactors starting operations, according to the United Nations' nuclear watchdog.

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says out of the six nuclear power reactors that went operational last year, three were from India. Brazil, China and Pakistan had one new reactor each.

According to IAEA data, the three Indian reactors -- two in Rajasthan and the third in the Kaiga Nuclear Power Plant complex (in Karnataka) -- brought India's total operating reactors to 14. They produced about two percent of India's total power output.

Altogether, IAEA says there were 438 reactors worldwide last year, up from 433 reactors operational in the previous year. One reactor, the third one at the ill- famed Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine, was shut down last year. Together, these 438 reactors generate about 16 percent of the total global electricity.

Just as it dominates the military nuclear sector, the West dominates the civilian nuclear power industry as well -- 83 percent of the 438 reactors were in the industrialized nations. The US had 104 working reactors last year, followed by France with 59 reactors. Japan comes a close third, with 53 reactors.

But IAEA's year 2000 figures once again prove that the nuclear power industry's golden years, if any, would be in Asia. "Only in the Middle East, Far East and South Asia, with a total of 94 reactors at present, are there clear plans for expanding nuclear power, particularly in China, India, the Republic of Korea and Japan," the IAEA said.

"More than half -- or 19 to be exact -- of the 31 reactors currently under construction are in Asia."

Asia's growing nuclear power industry has also been noted by the US Department of Energy (DoE), which said the continent's share of global nuclear power generation will increase from the present two percent to 17 percent by year 2020 as many new plants go critical.

China has a very ambitious nuclear program, and is constructing eight new plants to add to its existing three plants. According to Chinese officials, Beijing will invest between $60 billion to $100 billion over the next 25 years to construct new nuclear power plants.

South Korea has four under construction while Japan has three. Iran has two plants under construction.

Even though it might be modest in terms of Chinese plans, India also has ambitious plans for its nuclear sector, increasing the power generation capacity by as much as eight times over the next two decades.

The National Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) says the country's nuclear power output would grow from the present 2,500 MW to 20,000 MW by year 2020. Among the new plants that will become operational in this decade are the two, 500 MW units -- units three and four -- at Tarapur Atomic Power Plant in Maharashtra. The third unit is to start commercial operations in year 2006 while the fourth unit will go critical in 2005.

Work on the two 1,000 MW units at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu is also set to begin in the coming years after the final project report is completed this year. The two units will be a joint cooperation project between India and Russia.

The DoE expects India's nuclear sector to increase its share of national electricity generation from the two percent at present to six percent by year 2020.

India Abroad News Service

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