What's New :
Open Session for INTEGRATED PREPARATION for Prelims and Mains. Register Now


  • Published
    12th Jul, 2019

A national nuclear doctrine represents, the collective set of beliefs or principles held by the nation with regard to the utility of its nuclear weapons.

Post 1998 nuclear test, India came up with a comprehensive nuclear doctrine to clear doubts and misunderstandings prevailing around world regarding India's Nuclear weapon policy. The Cabinet Committee on Security enunciated the details in 2003. By charting out a clear and principled nuclear policy, India has not only clarified its stand (both nationally and internationally) but also has earned valuable global support and credibility by diligently following the restraints.

Main Features of India's Nuclear Doctrine

a) Building and maintaining a credible minimum deterrent.
b) A "No First Use" posture; nuclear weapons to be used only "in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere".
c) Nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be "massive" and designed to inflict "unacceptable damage".
d) Nuclear retaliatory attacks to be authorized only by civilian political leadership through the Nuclear Command Authority.
e) Non use of nuclear weapons against non nuclear weapon states.
f) Continuance of strict controls on export of nuclear and missile related materials and technologies, participation in FMCT negotiations, continued moratorium on testing.
g) India to retain option of retaliating with nuclear weapons in the event of a major attack against it with biological or chemical weapons.
h) Continued commitment to goal of nuclear weapon free world, through global, verifiable and non discriminatory disarmament.


  • "Credible minimum deterrent":

It recognizes that the deterrence to be effective must be credible, which includes:
a) Sufficient and Survivable nuclear forces both in terms of warheads and means of delivery able to inflict unacceptable damage.
b) Nuclear Forces must be operationally prepared at all times.
c) Effective Intelligence and Early Warning Capabilities.
d) A Robust Command and Control System.
e) The Will to Employ Nuclear Forces.
f) Communication of Deterrence Capability.

Credible minimum deterrence along with "No first use" and "No use against non nuclear states" clearly indicates that India's nuclear capability is for defensive purpose.

  • Massive retaliation and "Unacceptable damage":

Though India takes a principled defensive stance, by ensuring massive and decisive  retaliation it makes it's intents clear to countries with an ulterior motive.

  • Robust Command & Control system:

Political Council chaired by PM will be the final authority to take decision, who will be aided by an Executive Council headed by NSA. Bestowing the decision on popularly elected political executive (in a vibrant democracy like India) earns India a lot of credibility.

  • Effective intelligence and early warning capability:

This will be critical not only to counter an attack but also to retaliate. Organizations like NTRO, RAW provide 24x7 intelligence data to the authority in this regard.

Issue over no First Use policy

Arguments against No First Use

  • Several think tanks have been critical of the no-first-use (NFU) posture, calling it a liability in serious war planning.
  • NFU may result in unacceptably high initial casualties and damage to Indian population, cities, and infrastructure.
  • "Massive" retaliation is not credible, especially against a tactical nuclear strike on Indian forces on the adversary's own territory.
  • Lt. Gen. B.S. Nagal (Ret.), former commander in chief highlighted that it would be morally wrong for the leadership to place the population "in peril".
  • An elaborate and costly ballistic missile defense (BMD) system would be required to defend against a first strike.

Arguments supporting No First Use

  • India's strategic restraint posture has provided major gains internationally, including the lifting of economic sanctions and the removal of technology denial regimes, civil nuclear cooperation agreements, and accommodation in multilateral nuclear export control regimes. Most of these will be frittered away if India opts for first use.
  • Complex command and control and sophisticated intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems are necessary for a first-use posture.
  • A first-use posture will deny India the opportunity to engage in conventional warfare below the nuclear threshold.
  • It may lead to arms race and destabilization of the entire south Asia and meddling of outside powers.


Given the difficult neighbourhood and increasing threat of nuclear warfare, India's Nuclear doctrine acts as a deterrent, and plays a de-escalating role, creating space for diplomatic solution to critical issues.

While adhering to its "No first use" policy India must be prepared with a full proof ballistic missile defence system and efficient intelligence gathering network. India's principled nuclear doctrine, it's time tested credibility in peaceful nuclear use and its commitment to non discriminatory global disarmament must be leveraged to acquire membership in Global Nuclear Regime. These platforms must be used to strengthen the global nuclear architecture disincentivising nuclear states to either use or transfer nuclear know how to non state actors.

Energy is the most fundamental requirement of every society or nation as it progresses through the ladder of development. Today, India is going through a phase of rapid economic development and industries are evolving at a significantly higher rate. To support and sustain this economic growth there is need of massive energy. Currently, the country has a deficit of 15 % during peak hours. It is predicted that the total electricity demand will grow five times from the current 150,000 MW by the year 2030.

Many reasons including the limited availability and shortage of fossil fuel coupled with its rising prices has led to the underachievement of development targets. Under current scenario nuclear power can play a key role in diversifying India's fuel mix along with providing clean and cheap power, much needed to meet the country's energy demand and fuel its growth drive. Nuclear power is the one word answer to meet the rising demand for cheaper and less pollutant power.

The Government of India intends to draw twenty-five per cent of its energy from nuclear power by 2050. This plan includes 20,000 MW of installed capacity from nuclear energy by 2020, and 63,000 MW by 2032. India's nuclear power capacity is over 5,780 MW.

Nuclear power can help to improve energy security. For rapidly developing economy such as India, it (nuclear energy) can make a vitally important contribution to growth. Besides, nuclear power can also reduce the impact of volatile fossil fuel prices and mitigate the effects of climate change.

Not only for developing countries, but even developed countries need electricity to maintain economic competitiveness and nuclear power will have an important contribution to make.

Nuclear energy is the energy stored in the nucleus of an atom. It can be used to produce electricity. But, before it can used, it must be released. The enormous energy that is stored in the bonds that hold atoms together can be released by two processes: nuclear fission or nuclear fusion. In nuclear fission, atoms are split to form smaller atoms, releasing energy whereas in nuclear fusion atoms are combined or fused to form a larger atom. This is how the sun produces energy.

Although nuclear technology is mainly used for the production of electricity in nuclear power plants, this is not the only utility that can be given.

This type of energy appears in many other aspects of our everyday life and in science.

The radio-isotopes produced from nuclear power reactors are used for radiation sterilisation of medical products, production of radio-pharmaceuticals, nuclear medicine and cancer treatment.

The radio-isotopes are also used for production of improved varieties of seeds in agriculture, radiation processing of food items like spices, onions, potatoes, and mangoes.

Radiation technologies developed in Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) have also been used for various industrial applications like radiography, detecting leakage points in long natural gas pipelines, tracking petroleum pipelines, for assisting dredging operations in ports, gamma ray densitometers, radiography cameras and blood irradiators.

The isotopes are used to determine the exact amounts of polluting substances and places in which they occur and their causes. Furthermore, the treatment beam electrons reduces the environmental and health consequences of large-scale employment of fossil fuels, and has a better contribution compared with other techniques, solving problems such as the "greenhouse effect" and acid rain.

Unmanned spacecraft rely on radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) for the power they need for space exploration. RTGs use heat from plutonium to generate electricity. The craft use this electricity to run the computers that control their operation and collect and process the vast amounts of data, including images, that are sent back to Earth.

Nuclear desalination uses the excess heat from a nuclear power plant to evaporate sea water and to condense the pure water.

 Nuclear energy Scenario

In India, nuclear energy development began with the objective of peaceful uses of atomic energy in improving the quality of life of the people and to achieve self-reliance in meeting the energy needs.

The atomic energy program, which was initiated in a modest manner initially, has now grown as a wide spectrum, multi dimensional multidisciplinary with 63 organizations under DAE. The spectrum of these significant activities include R&D in Nuclear Sciences and Engineering, Exploration & Mining of Radioisotopes,  Nuclear energy development and implementation, application of Nuclear Energy, Bio-Agricultural Research, Medical Sciences, etc.

The Indian nuclear programme was conceived based on, unique sequential three-stages and associated technologies essentially to aim at optimum utilization of the indigenous nuclear resource profile of modest Uranium and abundant Thorium resources. This sequential three-stage program is based on a closed fuel cycle, where the spent fuel of one stage is reprocessed to produce fuel for the next stage.

The commercial nuclear power program of the first stage (comprising of PHWRs and imported LWRs) is being implemented by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), and the second stage (comprising of Fast Breeder Reactors) by Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited (BHAVINI), both companies owned fully by the union government in accordance with the provisions of the act.

STAGE 1: Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor using

  • Natural UO2 as fuel matrix.
  • Heavy water as moderator and coolant.

STAGE 2: Fast Breeder Reactor

  • India's second stage of nuclear power generation envisages the use of Pu-239 obtained from the first stage reactor operation, as the fuel core in fast breeder reactors (FBR).

STAGE 3: Breeder Reactor

The third phase of India's Nuclear Power Generation programme is, breeder reactors using U-233 fuel. India's vast thorium deposits permit design and operation of U-233 fuelled breeder reactors.

Research Reactors:

  • DHRUVA Reactor at BARC was designed, constructed and commissioned by Indian Engineers and scientists. Natural U is the fuel used and heavy water as moderator and coolant, Dhruva enabled India to attain self sufficiency in the production of radioisotopes
  • Kamini, a 30 kWt reactor at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research at Kalpakkam, achieved criticality in October 1996 for providing neutron radiography facilities and is a small but significant step towards utilization of our vast thorium reserves. It is the only operating reactor in the world using U-233 fuel.

Institutions involved in Nuclear energy Development

India's Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was established in August 1948 within the Department of Scientific Research, which was set up in June 1948. The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) came into existence in August 1954 through a Presidential Order. Thereafter, a Government Resolution in 1958 transferred the DAE within the AEC. The Secretary to the Government of India in the DAE is the ex-officio Chairman of the AEC. The other Members of the AEC are appointed on the recommendation of the Chairman of the AEC

DAE's own Research & Development wings include:

1)      Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Trombay: A series of 'research' reactors and critical facilities was built here. Reprocessing of used fuel was first undertaken at Trombay in 1964. BARC is also responsible for the transition to thorium-based systems. BARC is responsible for India's uranium enrichment projects, the pilot Rare Materials Plant (RMP) at Ratnahalli near Mysore

2)      Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR):  IGCAR at Kalpakkam was set up in 1971. Two civil research reactors here are preparing for stage two of the thorium cycle. BHAVINI is located here and draws upon the centre's expertise and that of NPCIL in establishing the fast reactor program, including the Fast Reactor Fuel Cycle Facility.

3)      The Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology (RRCAT): Multi-purpose research reactor (MPRR) for radioisotope production, testing nuclear fuel and reactor materials, and basic research.

4)      Atomic Minerals Directorate: The DAE's Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD) is focused on mineral exploration for uranium and thorium. It was set up in 1949, and is based in Hyderabad, with over 2700 staff.

5)      Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre: Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre is a premier R & D unit of the Department of Atomic Energy. This Centre is dedicated to carry out frontier research and development in the fields of Accelerator Science & Technology, Nuclear Science (Theoretical and Experimental), Material Science, Computer Science & Technology and in other relevant areas.

6)      Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership: It will be the DAE's sixth R & D facility. It is being built near Bahadurgarh in Haryana state and designed to strengthen India's collaboration internationally. It will house five schools to conduct research into advanced nuclear energy systems, nuclear security, radiological safety, as well as applications for radioisotopes and radiation technologies. Russia is to help set up four of the GCNEP schools.

Besides carrying out research at its own research centres, the DAE provides full support to seven aided institutions

1)      Tata Institute of Fundamental Research(TIFR): The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research is a National Centre of the Government of India, under the umbrella of the Department of Atomic Energy, as well as a deemed University awarding degrees for master's and doctoral programs. TIFR, carry out basic research in physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, computer science and science education. Main campus is located in Mumbai, but additional campuses are in Pune, Bangalore and Hyderabad.

2)      Tata Memorial Centre: The Tata Memorial Centre commissioned state of the art new operation theatres. For delivering hi-tech patient care, sophisticated facilities such as stereotactic radiosurgery and steriotactic and intensity modulated radiotherapy, were added.

3)      Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics: The Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics is an institution of basic research and training in physical and biophysical sciences located in Bidhannagar, Kolkata, India. The institute is named after the famous Indian physicist Meghnad Saha.

4)      Institute of Physics: Institute of Physics, Bhubaneswar is an autonomous research institution of the (DAE), Government of India.

5)      Institute for Plasma Research: Research and development in fusion technology continued at the Institute for Plasma Research.

6)      Harish Chandra Research Institute: The Harish-Chandra Research Institute is an institution dedicated to research in Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, located in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh in India.

7)      Institute of Mathematical Sciences: The Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMSc), founded in 1962 and based in the verdant surroundings of the CIT campus in Chennai, is a national institution which promotes fundamental research in frontier disciplines of the mathematical and physical sciences.

AERB: The AERB reviews the safety and security of the country's Operating Nuclear Power Plants, Nuclear Power Projects, Fuel Cycle Facilities, and Other Nuclear/Radiation Facilities and Radiation Facilities. The regulatory authority of AERB is derived from the rules and notifications promulgated under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962 and the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986. The headquarters is in Mumbai. The mission of the Board is to ensure that the use of Ionising Radiation and Nuclear Power in India does not cause undue risk to health and the Environment. Currently, the Board consists of a full-time Chairman, an ex officio Member, three part-time Members and a Secretary.

NPCIL: Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) is a Public Sector Enterprise under the administrative control of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE),Government of India. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) is responsible for design, construction, commissioning and operation of thermal nuclear power plants.

NPCIL is presently (June-2016) operating 21 nuclear power reactors with an installed capacity of 5780 MW. The reactor fleet comprises two Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs) and 18 Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) including one 100 MW PHWR at Rajasthan which is owned by DAE, Government of India.

The AERB is a regulatory body, which derives administrative and financial support from the Department of Atomic Energy. It reports to the secreatry, DAE.

The DAE is also involved in the promotion of nuclear energy, and is also responsible for the functioning of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited, which operates most nuclear power plants in the country.

The DAE is thus responsible both for nuclear safety (through the AERB), as well as the operation of nuclear power plants (through NPCIL). This could be seen as a conflict of interest.

 Safety standards in Nuclear Power plants

The performance of Indian nuclear power reactors in respect of safety has been excellent, with about 340 reactor years of safe, reliable and accident-free operation. The releases of radioactivity to the environment have been a small fraction of the limits prescribed by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB). The yearly radiation dose around the Indian NPPs, measured over the last many years, is an insignificantly small fraction of natural radiation dose and the stipulated regulatory limits.

At all nuclear power stations, state of the art safety measures are provided based on principles of redundancy (more numbers than required) and diversity (operating on different principles). These include fail safe shutdown system to safely shutdown the reactor, combination of active and passive (systems working on natural phenomena and not needing motive power or operator action) cooling systems to remove the heat from the core at all times and a robust containment to prevent release of radioactivity in all situations. In addition, all nuclear power plants are designed to withstand extreme natural events like earthquake, flooding, tsunami, etc.

A multi-tier safety mechanism comprising of safety review committees within Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and safety review committees in the regulatory authority (Atomic Energy Regulatory Board- AERB) is in place to monitor the safety of nuclear power plants. In addition, a framework of periodic safety reviews, audits and inspection is in place.

Nuclear power stations in coastal areas are designed taking into account the technical parameters related to earthquake, tsunami, storm surges, floods etc. at each site. Appropriate bunds are provided at Tarapur, Kalpakkam and Kudankulam sites for shore protection.

The shore protection measures are designed and constructed to withstand the possible impact of natural events. Surveillance of these protection measures is carried out periodically. Post Fukushima, the safety review of all nuclear power plants was conducted by task forces of NPCIL and the expert committee of AERB. These safety reviews have found that Indian nuclear power plants are safe and have margins and features in design to withstand extreme events like earthquakes and tsunamis.

Other steps are: A Bill to confer statutory status on the national safety regulatory authority had been introduced in Parliament. The results of the safety reviews mandated by the Union government had been made public. The National Disaster Management Authority had drawn up a holistic and integrated programme of "Management of Nuclear and Radiological Emergencies".


In pursuit of the peaceful uses of Atomic Energy, power generation based on nuclear energy assume first and foremost place and India has achieved many milestones in this area. A well planned programme for the progressive expansion for the tapping of atomic energy for electricity keeping in view of the country's future requirements for increased power generation capacity and available resources has been under implementation.

A strong R&D base has been established and functions as a backbone for the smooth transition of the research and development activities to the deployment phase and thereby realising the Department of Atomic Energy's mandate. Many technologies of strategic importance have been mastered to meet developmental needs.

But more need to be done to utilize the potential of Nuclear energy properly without effecting the safety and security of the citizens of India.

To secure the energy needs of India, Dr. Homi Bhabha had conceptualised India's three-stage nuclear power programme by working around India's limited uranium resources in 1950s.

Uranium exploration, production and utilisation are under the control of Central Government. Only public sector companies under Government of India are allowed to explore and mine atomic minerals viz. U, Th, etc.

Jaduguda in Singhbhum Thrust Belt (in the state of Jharkhand, formerly part of Bihar) is the first uranium deposit to be discovered in the country in 1951. The Singhbhum Thrust Belt (also known as Singhbhum Copper belt or Singhbhum shear Zone) is a zone of intense shearing and deep tectonization with less than 1km width and known for a number of copper deposits with associated nickel, molybdenum, bismuth, gold, silver etc. It extends in the shape of an arc for a length of about 160 km.

This discovery of uranium at Jaduguda in this belt paved the way for intensive exploration work and soon a few more deposits were brought to light in this area. Some of these deposits like Bhatin, Narwapahar and Turamdih are well known uranium mines of the country. Other deposits like Bagjata, Banduhurang and Mohuldih are being taken up for commercial mining  operations. Some of the other areas like Garadih, Kanyaluka, Nimdih and Nandup in this belt are also known to contain limited reserves with poor grades.

Apart from discoveries in the Singhbhum Thrust Belt, several uranium occurrences have also been found in Cuddapah basin of Andhra Pradesh. These include Lambapur-Peddagattu, Chitrial, Kuppunuru, Tumallapalle, Rachakuntapalle which have significantly contributed towards the uranium reserve base of India. In the Mahadek basin of Meghalaya in NorthEastern part of the country, sandsyone type uranium deposits like Domiasiat, Wahkhyn, Mawsynram provide near-surface flat orebodies amenable to commercial operations. Other areas in Rajsthan, Karnataka and Chattishgarh hold promise for developing into some major deposits.

Two agencies, viz., Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD) and Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) under the Department of Atomic Energy are engaged in the exploration and mining of uranium, respectively for its exclusive use as fuel in the nuclear power stations owned by Government of India.

Although Thorium reserve of India was significant but Thorium itself is not a fissile material, and thus cannot undergo fission to produce energy. Instead, it must be transmuted to uranium-233 in a reactor fuelled by other fissile materials.

Uranium deposits in India are generally small, lean in tenor and complex in nature of mineralization. With the globalization of Indian economy, it has become imperative to develop these deposits in cost effective and eco-friendly manner assimilating the worldwide developments in science and technology. In order to meet the timely requirement of uranium, government has moved for different nuclear agreements for non-obstructive supply of Uranium to meet the energy needs.

History of Nuclear cooperation

USA helped in construction of two boiling water reactor (BWR) units of 210 MWe each at Tarapur Atomic Power Station (T.A.P.S.) is located in Tarapur, Maharashtra. However The United States and Canada terminated their assistance after the detonation of India's first nuclear explosion in 1974.

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was anchored to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament. India refused to sign the treaty on ground of discriminatory treatment & unfair.

After 1998 nuclear test in Pokharan, USA and allies further imposed sanctions on India. However India continued to play its diplomacy with the west and adhered to non proliferation guidelines voluntarily.

Nuclear agreement with nations

  • Nuclear Agreement with France:

France was the first country to sign a civilian nuclear agreement with India on 30 September 2008 after the complete waiver provided by the NSG. During the December 2010 visit of the French President, Nicholas Sarkozy to India, framework agreements were signed for the setting upto third-generation EPR reactors of 1650 MW each at Jaitapur, Maharashtra by the French company Areva.

  • Nuclear Agreement with USA:

India and USA has signed Agreement 123 for civil nuclear cooperation.

After NSG's waiver to India to commence civilian nuclear trade in 2008, US signed agreement with India on civil nuclear cooperation and even convinced its allies to do so.

The Agreement would end technology denial regimes against India that have been in place for three decades and end India's nuclear isolation. It will open the doors for India to have civil nuclear cooperation as an equal partner with the USA and the rest of the world. It will enable us to meet the twin challenges of energy security and environmental sustainability. It will also have major spin-offs for the development of our industries, both public and private. At the same time, it will bring India the recognition it deserves thanks to the outstanding achievements of our scientists.

Recently, USA and India has agreed to construct six nuclear reactors by US company Westinghouse in India. This will add significant capacity to India's nuclear installations.

  • Nuclear Agreement with Russia:

Russia has an ongoing agreement of 1988 vintage with India regarding establishing of two VVER 1000 MW reactors (water-cooled water-moderated light water power reactors) at Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu. A 2008 agreement caters for provision of an additional four third generation VVER-1200 reactors of capacity 1170 MW each. Russia has assisted in India's efforts to design a nuclear plant for its nuclear submarine. Russia has assisted in India's efforts to design a nuclear plant for its nuclear submarine. In 2009, the Russians stated that Russia would not agree to curbs on export of sensitive technology to India. A new accord signed in December 2009 with Russia gives India freedom to proceed with the closed fuel cycle, which includes mining, preparation of the fuel for use in reactors, and reprocessing of spent fuel. On December 22, 2015, during Prime Minister's visit to Russia, a Joint Programme of Action for Localization of Manufacturing in India for Russian-designed Nuclear Power Plants was signed. A minimum of 12 reactor units will be built with Russian collaboration.

  • Nuclear Agreement with other countries:

India and Mongolia signed a crucial civil nuclear agreement on 15 June 2009 for supply of Uranium to India, making it the fifth nation in the world to seal a civil nuclear pact with India. India and Canada signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement in 2010 which when all steps are taken, will provide access for Canada's nuclear industry to India's expanding nuclear market and also fuel for India's reactors. Canada is one of the world's largest exporters of uranium and Canada's heavy water nuclear technology is marketed abroad with CANDU-type units operating in India, Pakistan, Argentina, South Korea, Romania and China.

In 2014, India and Australia signed a civil nuclear agreement which allows the export of uranium to India. Australia is the third largest producer of uranium in the world. The agreement allows supply of uranium for peaceful generation of power for civil use in India.

India and Britain has also signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement.

Other countries with which India signed agreement on supply of nuclear fuel include Kazakhstan, while South Korea signed an agreement to help built the nuclear reactors in India.

Significance of India's Nuclear Agreements

India is an energy scarce country and most of its energy is derived from the conventional fuels like coal and crude oil. In field of crude oil India imports nearly 72% of its demand which is not only a drain on the foreign reserves but also posing significant environmental challenges. In power generation near 60% of power supply is thermal generated. The study by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) claimed the average efficiency of the plants, it assessed, was 32.8 per cent, one of the lowest among major coal-based power producing countries. It claimed that average CO2 emission was 1.08 kg per kWh, 14 per cent higher than that of China. Also reserves of conventional fuel are limited and not sustainable in long run. Thus India looked for the new sources for the power generation and nuclear energy is one of the options which can provide solution to India's energy security needs. Nuclear agreements of supply of uranium with the countries like Australia, Canada, Kazakhstan and Namibia provide a security of resources.

Apart from it India has largest reserve of Thorium in the world which is near 963000 tonnes. This provides an opportunity for India to make on the resources available in the country. However this is subjected to the technological capacity acquired by the country to exploit the available resource. After NSG offered a special waiver to India for its nuclear fuel requirements and technologies for peaceful use. Developed countries like USA, Germany, South Korea, Russia, Australia and UK are looking India as largest market to offer their services, technologies and fuel. India's agreement with these countries will boost the mutual cooperation & acquisition of cutting edge technology at the competitive rate.

Economic growth, standard of living and improvement in social parameters like literacy, health, sanitation, empowerment of vulnerable especially women are directly or indirectly related to the assured supply of electricity. India also targeted to supply electricity to all villages by 2018. These requirement make need of a sustainable source of power generation. Nuclear energy has the potential to cater this need.

Currently India has a flourishing and largely indigenous nuclear power programme and expects to have 14.6 GWe nuclear capacities on line by 2024 and 63 GWe by 2032. It aims to supply 25% of electricity from nuclear power by 2050. India has a vision of becoming a world leader in nuclear technology due to its expertise in fast reactors and thorium fuel cycle. There are several other factors like nuclear energy is a high density fuel, it is relatively cleaner than other fossil fuels and can have geographical distribution as per need. The cost of generation of electricity is also competitive. Renewable technology in India is still in developing phase & cost much higher than nuclear energy. These factors make nuclear energy a significant contributor in India's energy needs.

Russia has assisted in India's efforts to design a nuclear plant for its nuclear submarine. With this India is able to safeguard its long coastline in the Indian Ocean and even India used the nuclear submarine platform to develop its military nuclear arsenal. This enabled India to create a deterrent against its aggressive neighbours in north across the Himalayas and on its western border. India's nuclear diplomacy has been successful to provide India a similar status to countries that ratified the NPT without compromising on its security needs. This has also established India as a major power to maintain peace in the South Asia Region & in Indian Ocean.

Major Challenges & Issues

One of the major challenges till recently was sanction imposed by the countries of Export control regime to access technology & fuel after 1974 nuclear test. This slowdown the India's effort to boost nuclear installations for electricity generation. However with self restrain on its nuclear test & a responsible attitude enable Indian diplomats to get the special waiver from NSG to have access to nuclear technology & fuel access. However challenges have not overcome fully. Especially which involve the nuclear laws of India and US. As per India's Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act of 2010, the operator of nuclear plants i.e. Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) can sue the manufacturers and suppliers in case of incident. This has been a major blockade in supply of technology by most of the countries. However Administrative Arrangement for implementing the agreement have been signed and the India Nuclear Insurance Pool set up to implement the understanding on civil nuclear liability, which has addressed international and domestic concerns on India's Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act of 2010.

In case of Namibia, the world's fourth largest producer of uranium, is keen to supply the product to India, an African Union agreement is impeding its implementation in a way. The Pelindaba Treaty, to which Namibia is a signatory, prohibits the research, development, manufacture, stockpiling, acquisition, testing, possession, control or stationing of nuclear explosive devices in the territory of parties to the treaty and the dumping of radioactive wastes in the African zone by treaty parties.

The treaty also prohibits any attack against nuclear installations in the zone by treaty parties and requires them to maintain the highest standards of physical protection of nuclear material, facilities and equipment, which are to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes. The treaty requires all parties to apply full-scope International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards to all their peaceful nuclear activities. However India has decided to sort out the legal issues by setting a joint technical team & enable India to have access to supply from Namibia.

An Australian governmental committee has recommended that uranium sales to India should only be allowed to proceed after its concerns about non-proliferation, nuclear regulation and safeguards have been addressed. Monitoring of fuel use and pricing of the fuel are major issues which still need to be settled.

Japan which is the only victim of nuclear disaster during 2nd World War, and recently of Fukushima disaster has been now taking the path of non nuclear energy & even hesitant to supply the civil nuclear technology to the other countries.

There is another issue of China's resistant to India to get the membership of NSG which will enable India legally to have a assured trade of fuel & technology across the world.

There have been concerns about the safety of nuclear installations regarding leakage of radiation & disposal of waste material. There has been delay and protest on commissioning of Kudankulam nuclear power plant which has been built with assistance from Russia.

Inspite of environment challenges which can be addressed with high net of technological safety and monitoring on part operator, India need the nuclear energy to sustain its economic growth & a affordable energy for its people. Nuclear agreements holds the key for the assured supply of fuel, technology and even boosting of commercial & strategic tie up of India with other countries of the world.

In May 2017 the Union Cabinet has approved ten 700 MWe PHWRs, without locations or timeline, but as a "fully homegrown initiative" with likely manufacturing orders to Indian industry of about INR 700 billion ($11 billion). The prime minister said it would help transform the domestic nuclear industry, which appears to suggest lower expectations of establishing new nuclear plants with Western technology from Areva, GEH, and Westinghouse.

Then In June 2017, during PM Modi's visit to Russia, an agreement was signed for Units 5 and 6 Of Kudankulam.

Thus the Construction of indigenous nuclear power plants has revived the debate over whether India should pursue of path of nuclear energy in India or not.

Arguments in favour of developing nuclear energy in India

Nuclear power is out gateway to a prosperous future - A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

We should remember that there are nations which meet more than 30 to 60% of their power requirements through the nuclear power system. - A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

a) Energy poverty:

  • Although India is the fourth largest energy consumer in the world, only behind the US, China and Russia, it continues to remain energy-poor.
  • In 2013, India's population without access to electricity was estimated to be a staggering 237 million (around 19 percent of the entire population).
  • Thus India's energy poverty remains a big challenge.

    b) Climate change (meeting INDC target):
  • At the same time, India's total carbon emissions are on the rise. Since 1990, India's GHG emissions have risen by nearly 200 percent.
  • Due to its emission-free nature, nuclear energy can contribute to global efforts under Paris Agreement (which was decided at the Conference of Parties (COP) 21 meeting in December 2015) to tackle climate change by curbing its total carbon emissions.
  • India's Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has outlined goals to reduce the carbon emissions intensity of its economy by 33-35 percent by 2030 as well as increase the clean energy electricity capacity to 40 percent of the total installed capacity in the same period.

Arguments against nuclear energy

a) Reactor's cost: Nuclear plants are too expensive. They cost at least billion dollars to be built.
b) Reactor's safety: Nuclear reactors are unsafe; Chernobyl disaster resulted in a huge death toll.
c) Nuclear waste: In all countries using nuclear energy there are well established procedures for storing, managing and transporting such wastes, funded from electricity users. Wastes are contained and managed, not released. Storage is safe and secure, plans are well in hand for eventual disposal.
d) Fear of being used for making nuclear bombs: Reprocessing spent fuel gives rise to plutonium which is likely to be used in bombs.
e) Insurance: Insurance companies will not insure nuclear reactors so the risk devolves on to government.
f) Use of renewable: If energy efficiency is all that's needed, then renewable energy sources should be used instead.

Counter-arguments to apprehensions:

a) Reactor's cost: Once built, the cost to operate a nuclear power plant is constant and predictable since the uranium fuel cost very less. The primary costs of a nuclear plant are the operation, maintenance and capital costs.
b) Reactor's safety: The nuclear industry has an excellent safety record, with some 14,800 reactor years of operation spanning five decades. The reactors built today are very safe. Even a major accident and meltdown as at Fukushima in 2011 would not endanger its neighbours. There were no deaths or serious radiation doses from the Fukushima accident.
c) Nuclear waste: Nuclear wastes (as spent fuel) are an unresolved problem.
d) Fear of being used for making nuclear bombs:

  • The plutonium obtained from reprocessing is not suitable for bombs but is a valuable fuel which can be used with depleted uranium as mixed oxide fuel (MOX).
  • Also, all traded uranium is sold for electricity production only, and two layers of international safeguards arrangements confirm this.
    e) Insurance: All nuclear reactors, at least in the West, are insured. Beyond the cover for individual plants there are national and international pooling arrangements for comprehensive third-party cover.
    f) Renewable are intermittent (unreliable secondary source): Nuclear energy is a reliable source of energy due to its consistent nature of production. Renewable's may be used as much as possible, but intrinsic limitations (diffuse, intermittent sources) mean that wind and sun can never economically replace sources such as coal, gas and nuclear for large-scale, continuous, reliable supply.

Hurdles to India's Nuclear Energy Program

Now although India has set an ambitious target of installing nuclear energy, but these targets face many hurdles.

This can be seen by the fact that inspite of successive governments have long touted nuclear power as the solution to India's energy woes, actual performance has merely flattered to deceive. India's waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers' Group and its agreement with the global atomic body, IAEA, has resulted in limited breakthroughs in the last decade.

International hurdles:

a) Membership of Nuclear Supplier's Group (NSG):

  • For getting full benefit of nuclear cooperation, India needs membership of NSG. But China is openly blocking India's entry into NSG due to geo-political reasons.
  • Membership would allow India's full scale entry into nuclear energy trade; will help in meeting its growing energy demands; and would allow to shift its energy sources from fossil fuels to clean energy.
  • NSG is a useful forum to advance global non-proliferation objectives, and further that India can contribute positively towards that end by being a NSG member.
  • As India has significant expertise in nuclear energy, it can help other countries in getting access to clean nuclear energy for civilian purpose.
    b) Challenges related to Civil and nuclear liability:
  • To address the issue of nuclear liability, India has ratified the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage and set up an insurance pool of Rs.1,500 crore ($225 million) for liability risks that may arise from the construction and operation of nuclear power plants in the country.
  • It is uncertain, however, if this amount will effectively assuage supplier concerns. Just as an example, after the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984, the Indian government claimed $3.3 billion in damages. The proposed insurance pool is measly in comparison.

Domestic hurdles:

a) Land acquisition for nuclear energy parks:

  • NPCIL plans to develop nuclear energy parks that could each supply 10 GW of power.
  • Now there has been significant opposition and local protests to the government plans of land acquisition to develop these nuclear energy parks as seen in Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu and Jaitapur in Maharashtra. Proposed nuclear energy park of Westinghouse AP 1000 was shifted from from Mithi Virdi in Gujarat to Andhra Pradesh after facing protests by locals.
  • Land acquisition itself is widely debated in India and the BJP government is attempting to pass its Land Acquisition Bill in Parliament.
  • The bill provides certain exemptions for five categories of projects from having to go through the process of getting consent of majority of land owners.

      1) These five exempted categories are: defence, rural infrastructure, affordable housing, industrial corridors, and Infrastructure projects.

      2) Nuclear power plants would be categorised as infrastructure projects and therefore be exempted.

  • Failure in passing the bill will ensure that land acquisition becomes yet another hurdle to nuclear power stations in the country.
    b) Fuel requirements:
  • Uranium: India has low reserves of uranium. But this changed a bit recently with the discovery of the Tummalapalle uranium mine in Andhra Pradesh, which has the potential to be among the largest uranium mines in the world. India has also entered into uranium supply agreements with various countries such as Russia, France and Kazakhstan to import the majority of its uranium needs.
  • Thorium: India has huge thorium reserves which forms the basis of its plans for the third stage, the large-scale deployment of thorium reactors. However, few points should be remembered:

      1) Thorium technology continues to be a long term goal rather than an immediate option for the country,

      2) No country in the world has yet demonstrated a viable and commercial thorium reactor programme; and

      3) There is also the question of safety and security.
     c) Manufacturing constraints:

  • Nuclear power plants require heavy engineering components: Now all countries with serious nuclear power programmes have achieved them with a domestic manufacturing base that covered most of the supply chain of materials required for building a nuclear power plant.
  • India's current manufacturing capability only covers the supply chain for 700 MW PHWRs. It is not yet ready to cover other reactors and reactors with capacities of more than 1 GW.
  • Thus, there exist manufacturing and supply chain constraints.
    d) Human resource:
  • India currently faces a shortfall in nuclear scientists and engineers.
  • In 2006, Department of Atomic Energy stated that it would be necessary to train and recruit about 700 scientists and engineers every year in R&D units.
    e) Regulatory challenges (wrt AERB):
  • As noted by the parliamentary Public Affairs Committee (PAC) report on the AERB, regulatory oversight too faces a huge manpower shortage.
    f) Funding:
  • According to a study by Observer Research Foundation in 2016, India's nuclear projects are estimated to cost minimum Rs.100,000 crore to construct.
  • Attracting finance is vital for a sustained push to develop India's nuclear programme.
  • As noted earlier, the EPR is currently running three times over budget in Finland and the cost stands at €9 billion.

How much nuclear power capacity can be installed by 2050?

  • According to various projections it is feasible that the installed nuclear power capacity of India could rise to around 50 GW by mid-century, which would be nearly a tenfold increase on current levels. However, the share of nuclear energy in India's total electricity mix would still be low.
  • On the other hand, for installed nuclear capacity to rise to 100 GW and above, and nuclear power to contribute 25 percent of the electricity produced in the country, the limits will have to be pushed by tilting India's energy system comprehensively towards nuclear power.
  • For this India needs to have a two-pronged strategy:
    a) Focus on indigenous production of Pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWRs). Building Indigenous PHWRs has various advantages:

      1. India can rapidly scale up the construction of PHWRs across the country unhindered by international politics, tricky bilateral agreements, unreliability of foreign supply chains and massive costs (Both EPRs and AP 1000s are expensive and untested (they are not in commercial operation anywhere around the world yet)).

      2. PHWRs will use natural uranium, thus removing the need for enrichment.

      3. It will offer India the chance to master a type of nuclear reactor technology. Successful demonstration of this technology will allow India to build PHWRs in other countries, earning it valuable capital for further expanding the fleet of PHWRs at home.
b) International Collaboration:

      1. Apart from focussing on indigenous production, India should also complete the existing international projects by solving the issues related to supply of fuel, land requirement and meeting the manpower requirement.

      2. India should also focus on getting NSG membership by diplomatically engaging with China and if required then using membership of MTCR as a bargain.


Nuclear power can help to improve energy security. For rapidly developing economy such as India, it (nuclear energy) can make a vitally important contribution to growth. Besides, nuclear power can also reduce the impact of volatile fossil fuel prices and mitigate the effects of climate change.

In pursuit of the peaceful uses of Atomic Energy India has achieved many milestones in this area. A strong R&D base has been established and functions as a backbone for the smooth transition of the research and development activities to the deployment phase and thereby realising the Department of Atomic Energy's mandate. Many technologies of strategic importance have been mastered to meet developmental needs.

But more need to be done to utilize the potential of Nuclear energy properly without affecting the safety and security of the citizens of India.

Any nuclear accident has potential consequences beyond the boundaries of the country where it occurs, and national laws on liability in the case of a nuclear accident are supplemented by a number of international conventions. Liability is limited by both international conventions and by national legislation, so that beyond the limit (normally covered by insurance) the state can accept responsibility as insurer of last resort, as in all other aspects of industrial society.

There are three major international agreements which form the international framework of nuclear liability: (a) The Paris Convention of 1960 (b) The Vienna Convention of 1963S, and (c) The Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage of 1997.

These Conventions are based on the civil law concept and share the following main principles:

  1. Liability is channeled exclusively to the operators of the nuclear installations;
  2. Liability of the operator is absolute, i.e. the operator is held liable irrespective of fault;
  3. Liability is limited in amount. Under the Vienna Convention, it may be limited to not less than US$ 5 million (value in gold on 29 April 1963), but an upper ceiling is not fixed. The Paris Convention sets a maximum liability of 15 million SDR provided that the Installation State may provide for a greater or lesser amount but not below 5 million SDRs taking into account the availability of insurance coverage. The Brussels Supplementary Convention established additional funding beyond the amount available under the Paris Convention up to a total of 300 million SDRs, consisting of contributions by the installation State and contracting parties;
  4. Liability is limited in time. Compensation rights are extinguished under both Conventions if an action is not brought within ten years from the date of the nuclear incident. Longer periods are permissible if, under the law of the installation State, the liability of the operator is covered by financial security. National law may establish a shorter time limit, but not less than two years (the Paris Convention) or three years(the Vienna Convention) from the date the claimant knew or ought to have known of the damage and the operator liable;
  5. The operator must maintain insurance of other financial security for an amount corresponding to his liability; if such security is insufficient, the installation State is obliged to make up the difference up to the limit of the operator´s liability;
  6. Jurisdiction over actions lies exclusively with the courts of the Contracting Party in whose territory the nuclear incident occurred;
  7. Non-discrimination of victims on the grounds of nationality, domicile or residence.

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010

In most countries nuclear plant operators are liable for any damage caused in the event of an accident, against which they take out liability insurance. India had been a notable exception, with reactor suppliers potentially liable for damages in the event of an accident. The 2010 legislation makes Indian operators primarily liable for any nuclear accident, but still keeps open the possibility of recourse to suppliers.

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010 seeks to create a mechanism for compensating victims of nuclear damage arising from a nuclear incident.

Key Features:

  • It fixes liability for nuclear damage and specifies procedures for compensating victims.
  • The Bill fixes no-fault liability on operators and gives them a right of recourse against certain persons. It caps the liability of the operator at Rs 500 crore.  For damage exceeding this amount, and up to 300 million SDR, the central government will be liable.
  • All operators (except the central government) need to take insurance or provide financial security to cover their liability.
  • For facilities owned by the government, the entire liability up to 300 million SDR will be borne by the government.
  • The Bill specifies who can claim compensation and the authorities who will assess and award compensation for nuclear damage.

In case of Russia, India had explicitly absolved the Russian supplier of any liability whatsoever in case of a nuclear incident at any site hosting a Russian reactor. Not only that even if the 2008 agreement was terminated the assurance of no liability was promised in case of the four additional reactors at Kudankulam. However, recent reports indicate that India would like Russia to accept the application of the Indian CLNDA in case of Kudankulam 3 and 4, which is one of the reasons why no contract has been signed by NPCIL for further reactors at Kudankulam.

The India-US "AGREEMENT FOR COOPERA TION BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA CONCERNING PEACEFUL USES OF NUCLEAR ENERGY" which was signed on October 10, 2008 does not have any explicit reference to civil nuclear liability. However, through exchanges of bilateral assurances and Joint statements by the respective heads of governments, India committed itself to a set of principles in civil nuclear liability.

 Key issues and analysis

Under Section 17(b), liability for a nuclear accident can be channelled from the operator, which is the Nuclear Power Corporation of India, to suppliers of nuclear material, specifically if the accident is due to an act of the supplier or his employee, which includes supply of equipment or material with patent or latent defects or sub-standard services.

Section 46 permits victims of a nuclear incident to sue the operator or the supplier for damages applying tort law, even though such proceedings would be beyond the scope of CLNDA and its liability cap, and thus exposing suppliers to unlimited liability. Both clauses are likely to raise suppliers' cost of insurance cover, possibly beyond what is feasible commercially and within the confines of competitive energy pricing.

Regardless of the extent of damage, the total liability would be limited to SDR 300 million. This amount may not be sufficient to provide adequate compensation in case of a major incident. More than five lakh people were affected after the chemical leakage in Bhopal in the Union Carbide incident (not a nuclear incident). For that incident, the Supreme Court required Union Carbide to provide compensation of 470  million dollars and asked the government to meet any further liability. Many other countries which are major producers of nuclear energy do not have a cap on the overall liability for nuclear damage.

The liability of the operator has been capped at Rs. 500 crore (USD 109 million at current exchange rates). This means that if the nuclear damage exceeds this amount, the central government is liable to compensate victims subject to a cap of 300 million SDR. Several countries which are major producers of nuclear power have a higher limit on the liability of the operator.

The Bill permits the operator to take recourse against the supplier. This may be an impediment if India wants to join international agreements on civil liability for nuclear damage.

Claims for compensation can be filed within ten years of the date of notification of a nuclear incident. This may be inadequate in cases where the effects of radiation are discovered after a substantial period of time.

India ratified Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC)

The objective of the 1997 Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC) is to establish a worldwide liability regime and to increase the amount of compensation available to the victims of nuclear accidents.

India ratified the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damages (CSC) in February 2016.

CSC Annex does not restrict in any manner the contents of the contract between the operator and the supplier including the basis for recourse agreed by the operator and supplier.

Once the ratification is done, it will strengthen the Indian government's stand on the interpretations and enable the NPCIL to open preliminary techno-economic discussions with U.S. suppliers, while offering similar assurances to other foreign suppliers.

Simultaneously, the NPCIL should bring its contract language into conformity with these explanations, which is presently not the case, so that domestic suppliers stand reassured. The explanations should help smoothen the process.

How CSC provisions prefer US?

The United States, in particular, has always preferred the CSC over other conventions addressing nuclear liability, such as the Paris Convention of 1960 or the Vienna Convention of 1963. This is because CSC has a grandfather clause in its annexure 2 that provides an exemption for American domestic laws to supersede in case of an accident on its soil. As a result, in the US, criminal liability lawsuits can be initiated against nuclear corporations. The same CSC, however, requires its other signatories to enact domestic laws as per its annexure and strictly limit it to civil liability.

Therefore, in view of the above, in so far as the reference to the supplier in Section 17(b) is concerned, it would be in conformity with and not in contradiction of Article 10(a) of the CSC Annex. Its operationalization will be through contract conditions agreed to by the operator and the supplier.


Indian Nuclear Insurance Pool

The Indian Nuclear Insurance Pool, was launched by the state-owned General Insurance Corporation-Reinsurer (GIC-Re) and other Indian insurance companies in June 2015 to offer an insurance product for NPCIL for covering the operator's liability under the provisions of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act 2010. NPCIL will subsequently launch a separate product to specifically cover the risks of the suppliers under this Act.

India decided to have a nuclear insurance pool to take care of the liability of operators and suppliers. This insurance pool of Rs. 1,500 crore was launched in June 2015, with some Indian insurance companies and a British insurance partner.

Beyond Rs. 1,500 crore, the liability will be borne by the Indian government up to Rs. 2,610 crore, and beyond that, India will be able to access international funds under the CSC. The ratification helps India access this pool - which, though, is quite small now as only the US, Japan and UAE are the rich countries currently part of the Convention.


India is planning to build several new nuclear power plants, but all under the umbrella of the state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation (NPCIL). Any investment in the nuclear power sector is going to be made by NPCIL, and thus, by Indian taxpayers.

Foreign firms such as Westinghouse, Areva, and GE Hitachi will be involved only as contractors and suppliers to NPCIL-not as investors. India is not looking at these companies for 'investments'-their involvement in India will only be as vendors for NPCIL-and, as vendors, they cannot dictate terms to a customer.

The act explicitly gives the circumstances under which a supplier can be held liable for an incident. Indian law cannot be superseded in this case. Therefore, as long as NPCIL provides for the right to recourse in the contracts that it enters into with its suppliers, the suppliers can be held liable for any lapses on their part which lead to problems. NPCIL is fully owned by the Government of India and is bound to follow Indian law on this issue. India's current domestic nuclear liability laws still allow electric companies to obtain reimbursement against suppliers of nuclear power plants in the event of an accident.


Verifying, please be patient.

Enquire Now