Category Archives: Energy Security

Here’s looking at you, India

Source : Arunabha Ghosh ;

As US withdraws from the Paris pact, it’s time the world recognised the real climate leaders

Who is a climate leader? The Paris Agreement on climate change happened, in part, because of the bold political will of several world leaders, and in part for the United States, taking a legal form which would not require Congressional approval. Now that President Donald Trump has finally taken a decision for the US to exit the Agreement, it is time for the world to recognise the real climate leaders. India is one of them. But it needs to speak up.

In anticipation of the US withdrawal, at the G7 summit in Sicily, the six other members (and the European Union) reaffirmed their commitment to the Agreement. This week, China and the EU will announce that they are forging an alliance to deliver a “decisive response” against climate change and “lead the energy transition” to a low-carbon economy.

In November 2014, a similar statement issued by China and the US had also created the impression that they were the true climate leaders. Reality is less black and white. With a target of 2 degree Celsius, between 2011 and 2030, China, the EU and the US would together corner at least 38 per cent of the world’s total permissible emissions up to 2100. If the world targeted only 1.5 degree Celsius, then, by 2030, these three regions would consume 95 per cent of the entire world’s nearly century-long carbon budget.

With the US withdrawal, that carbon space would shrink even more and faster. Latest evidence shows the EU’s emissions increased in 2015. Renewables supply 30 per cent of Germany’s electricity (a huge share) but coal and lignite account for 40 per cent. China proposed in January that coal consumption would rise to 4.1 billion tonnes in 2020, even as it stakes its claim to being a global renewable energy leader. None of this is unvarnished climate leadership.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated India’s commitment to the Paris Agreement this week. Yet, there is still limited recognition of what India is already doing on the ground. It is an irony that China (the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter) becomes the climate leader, by default. Climate leadership is not a crown to be worn by only one country. Countries will be judged by actions, not words, just as Trump said. India must emphasise (loudly) the five pillars of its climate leadership in action.

One, policy. In 2010 India’s National Solar Mission commenced with a target of installing 22,000 megawatts (MW). At the time, India’s total installed capacity was 17.8 MW. The world’s leading solar countries were Germany, Spain, Japan, US and Italy. India was at 10th place. In 2014, India asked itself a simple question: How big can we get on renewables? And by early 2015, India announced that by 2022, it would install 1,00,000 MW of solar, 60,000 MW of wind, 10,000 MW of small hydropower and 5,000 MW of biomass-based electricity capacity.

There are sceptics, at home and abroad, who question whether the targets are too ambitious or whether India is capable of meeting them so soon. They might be right. After all, India is trying to do in less than a decade what took Germany more than two decades to achieve. But the targets have set a direction of travel, creating an attractive market, giving confidence to investors, even nudging policy planners to design an electricity system which could accommodate renewable energy, even if thermal power were squeezed out.

Two, programmes. In addition to policies, India has demonstrated its willingness and ability to scale programmes nationwide and rapidly, which serve to drive a shift towards cleaner fuels while also increasing energy access.

According to government data, 238 million LED lightbulbs have been distributed through an innovative programme of advanced market commitments, driving prices down from above INR 300 in 2014 to under INR 50 now. Another example: The Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme for LPG has become the world’s largest cash transfer programme, drawing in 176.3 million households, triggering both subsidy reform and access to cleaner cooking fuels.

Three, prices. Whereas many European countries pushed renewable energy through consumer subsidies, India adopted a reverse auction-based competitive bidding process for solar. That has meant that the lowest tariffs have dropped from INR 10.95 (USD 0.17) in December 2010 to INR 2.44 (USD 0.038) in May 2017. Competitive bidding in wind, introduced in February 2017, resulted in bids falling to INR 3.46. Can renewable energy prices fall any further? CEEW analysis shows that the cost of finance, rather than the cost of technology, accounts for the largest share of the tariffs — a challenge even greater in several developing countries. If India can find ways to reduce investor risks, and lower the cost of finance, it would hold lessons for others on how a combination of transparent bidding and publicly funded risk guarantees could drive a clean energy transition.

Four, productivity. Climate change is already impacting India, with increasing water stress and billions of dollars of lost agricultural output during this century. Could India increase agricultural production, while reducing water and energy intensity? Converting 15 per cent of India’s irrigation pumpsets to solar would create 20,000 MW of solar capacity. If various factors (cropping patterns, bank credit, etc.) align, CEEW’s analysis finds that 39 per cent of India’s districts would have a moderate to high potential of deploying solar pumps. Again, this has lessons for many other developing countries.

Five, partnerships. In November 2015, India and France launched the International Solar Alliance (ISA). The ISA plans to aggregate demand to drive prices down, scale up technologies currently available, and pool resources to invest in solar R&D. Thirty one countries have signed its Framework Agreement already. Among other initiatives, the ISA is seeking common risk mitigation instruments, to hedge risks across its membership and beyond in order to leverage limited public funds and crowd in large flows of private investment. We must acknowledge two realities. First, the rest of the world will have to continue to act on climate change, regardless of what the US does. Secondly, the mantle of climate leadership cannot be held by just one country.

For its level of income and per capita emissions, India is doing disproportionately more than many of the larger polluters. It must speak confidently about its actions and its leadership for other countries.

The writer (Arunabha Ghosh) is CEO, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) and co-author of ‘Climate Change: A Risk Assessment’ (2015) and ‘Energising India’ (2016)  

ONGC Videsh in $1.2 billion deal for 15% stake in Rosneft’s Vankor field

Source: Times of India

NEW DELHI: ONGC Videsh Ltd is to acquire from Russian oil behemoth Rosneft a 15% stake in Vankor oil and gas fieldin eastern Siberia for an estimated $1.2 billion, making it the fourth largest acquisition by the overseas investment arm of India’s flagship explorer ONGC.

Sources said the deal would see ONGC Videsh get two seats on the board of Vankorneft and 3.3 million tonne of oil per annum. Rosneft would create an operator company that would allow more efficient management of both Vankor field and the company’s other licences in this region.

The acquisition received approval of top political leadership of both the countries during the July 8 meeting between PM Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of BRICS and SCO summit at the Russian city of Ufa.

It is a win-win deal for both the countries and underpins the inherent strength of bilateral relations in spite of New Delhi’s markedly visible tilt towards Washington in recent times, including in big-ticket defence deals.

For India, the acquisition is one more step towards ensuring the country’s energy security and expands its presence in the oil and gas industry of one of the largest producers outside Opec. ONGC Videsh already has a 20% stake in Sakhalin-I project and owns Imperial Energy, which operates fields in the Tomsk region of eastern Siberia.

For Russia, the deal makes a statement to the West, which has imposed economic sanctions due to Kremlin’s alleged role in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. It also brings in investment at a time when the Russian economy is under pressure from low oil prices. It also balances out it oil ties in the face of ever-expanding links with China.

The degree of importance accorded to the deal by Kremlin was evident from Putin’s presence at the signing ceremony at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on Friday. Rosneft chairman Igor Sechin, considered close to kremlin, and ONGC Videsh managing director NK Verma signed on the dotted lines.

The Vankor field is located 130km west of Igarka in the Turukhansk district of Krasnoyarsk Krai in eastern Siberia, close to the border with Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug.

Rosneft, the largest publicly traded oil firm in the world, operates the field through its 100% subsidiary Vankorneft. The field is estimated to hold reserves of 520 million tonne of oil and 95 billion cubic metres of gas. It began production in August 2009.

“Vankor is Rosneft’s (and Russia’s) second largest field by production and accounts for 4% per cent of Russian production. The daily production from the field is around 4,42,000 barrels per day of crude oil on an average with OVL’s share of daily oil production at about 66,000,” ONGC Videsh said in a statement.

After Oil, India to build a ‘Strategic Uranium Reserve’


NEW DELHI: After a record production this year, India is working on creating a ‘strategic uranium reserve’ to ensure its atomic power reactors do not face shortage of the crucial nuclear fuel.

“The reserve pool could be anywhere between 5000 MT to 15,000 MT which can last for 5-10 years,” said a senior government official.

A proposal for stocking 5000 MT of uranium has been sent to the Cabinet for approval but the cap is likely to increase in the coming years.

Over the past one year, India has been pursuing its case to buy uranium from different countries including Australia and Canada. It is also procuring uranium from Russia for its indigenous reactors. During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Kazakhstan last week, India renewed a contract with the Central Asian country to procure 5000 MT of uranium.

After Hyderabad another Nuclear Fuel Complex is coming up in Kota in Rajasthan, sources said.

“For all these years, we could not think of having a reserve like other countries have due to the impending sanctions. But now we can think of working to build a reserve of nuclear fuel.

“We are mostly depending on the uranium from Australia. Once we start getting it, we can start building the reserve. Uranium from Kazakhstan will largely meet the current demand. It is a rare commodity, so one should keep piling it whenever it is available at a cheaper rate in the international market,” the official added.

Under the Indo-US nuclear deal, the latter is to support India?s initiative for having a nuclear pool. “The United States will support an Indian effort to develop a strategic reserve of nuclear fuel to guard against any disruption of supply over the lifetime of India’s reactors,” the agreement states.

Indian reactors had been “under-performing” as they did not get enough fuel from the outside world prior to the historic Indo-US nuclear cooperation agreement due to sanctions. However, since its inception, India has started importing uranium from Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and France.

In a major milestone, India this year registered a record production of over 1,252 MT of uranium, manufacturing close to double the annual fuel requirement of atomic reactors in the country. The production has far exceeded the country’s annual fuel requirement of 650 MT for the Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs), which means the country has surplus nuclear fuel that will last several months.

Every 700 MW of reactor needs 125 MT of uranium every year. However, with the rising number of power reactors in the country, the demand is expected to rise. In the near future, two nuclear reactors of 700 MW each in Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS) and Kakrapar Atomic Power Station (KAPS) are coming up. Four atomic reactors of 700 MW each are also coming up at the Gorakhpur Haryana Anu Vidyut Pariyojana (GHAVP).

Fuel for Kudankulam plant in Tamil Nadu and Jaitapur in Maharashtra, coming up in collaboration with Russia and France respectively, will be made available by the foreign players.

India’s 3-Stage Civil Nuclear Power Programme

(Source of the complete post: Wikipedia)

According to Siegfried Hecker, former director, Los Alamos National Laboratory, U.S.,

“India has the most technically ambitious and innovative nuclear energy programme in the world. The extent and functionality of its nuclear experimental facilities are matched only by those in Russia and are far ahead of what is left in the US.”

India’s three-stage nuclear power programme was formulated by Dr. Homi Bhabha in the 1950s to secure the country’s long term energy independence, through the use of uranium and thorium reserves found in the monazite sands of coastal regions of South India. The ultimate focus of the programme is on enabling the thorium reserves of India to be utilised in meeting the country’s energy requirements. Thorium is particularly attractive for India, as it has only around 1–2% of the global uranium reserves, but one of the largest shares of global thorium reserves at about 25% of the world’s known thorium reserves. However, thorium is not economically viable because global uranium prices are much lower.

The country published about twice the number of papers on thorium as its nearest competitors, during each of the years from 2002 to 2006. The Indian nuclear establishment estimates that the country could produce 500 GWe for at least four centuries using just the country’s economically extractable thorium reserves.

As of August 2014, India’s first Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor had been delayed – with first criticality expected in 2015 – and India continued to import thousands of tonnes of uranium from Russia, Kazakhstan, France, and Uzbekistan. The recent India-Australia Nuclear Deal,  Indo-US Nuclear Deal, India-Canada Nuclear Deal and the NSG waiver (Nuclear Suppliers Group), which ended more than three decades of international isolation of the Indian civil nuclear programme, have created many hitherto unexplored alternatives for the success of the three-stage nuclear power programme.


Dr. Homi Bhabha conceived of the three-stage nuclear programme as a way to develop nuclear energy by working around India’s limited uranium resources. Thorium itself is not a fissile material, and thus cannot undergo fission to produce energy. Instead, it must first be converted into the fissile isotope uranium-233 by transmutation in a reactor fueled by other fissile materials. The first two stages, natural uranium-fueled heavy water reactors and plutonium-fueled fast breeder reactors, are intended to generate sufficient fissile material from India’s limited uranium resources, so that all its vast thorium reserves can be fully utilised in the third stage of thermal breeder reactors.

In November 1954, Bhabha presented the three-stage plan for national development, at the conference on “Development of Atomic Energy for Peaceful Purposes” which was also attended by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Four years later in 1958, the Indian government formally adopted the three-stage plan.  Indian government recognised that thorium was a source that could provide power to the Indian people for the long term.

File:Homi Jehangir Bhabha.jpg

Although India has only around 1–2% of the global uranium reserves, thorium reserves are bigger; around 12–33% of global reserves, according to IAEA and US Geological Survey. Several in-depth independent studies put Indian thorium reserves at 30% of the total world thorium reserves.

India is a leader of thorium based research. It is also by far the most committed nation as far as the use of thorium fuel is concerned, and no other country has done as much neutron physics work on thorium. The country published about twice the number of papers on thorium as its nearest competitors during each of the years from 2002 to 2006. Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) had the highest number of publications in the thorium area, across all research institutions in the world during the period 1982-2004. During this same period, India ranks an overall second behind the United States in the research output on Thorium. Analysis shows that majority of the authors involved in thorium research publications appear to be from India.

  1. Stage I – Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR)

In the first stage of the programme, natural uranium fuelled pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWR) produce electricity while generating plutonium-239 as by-product.

Natural uranium contains only 0.7% of the fissile isotope uranium-235. Most of the remaining 99.3% is uranium-238 which is not fissile but can be converted in a reactor to the fissile isotope plutonium-239.

Indian uranium reserves are capable of generating a total power capacity of 420 GWe-years, but the Indian government limited the number of PHWRs fueled exclusively by indigenous uranium reserves, in an attempt to ensure that existing plants get a lifetime supply of uranium. US analysts calculate this limit as being slightly over 13 GW in capacity. Several other sources estimate that the known reserves of natural uranium in the country permit only about 10 GW of capacity to be built through indigenously fueled PHWRs. The three-stage programme explicitly incorporates this limit as the upper cut off of the first stage, beyond which PHWRs are not planned to be built.

  1. Stage II – Fast Breeder Reactors (FBR)

In the second stage, fast breeder reactors (FBRs) would use a mixed oxide (MOX) fuel made from plutonium-239, recovered by reprocessing spent fuel from the first stage, and natural uranium. In FBRs, plutonium-239 undergoes fission to produce energy, while the uranium-238 present in the mixed oxide fuel transmutes to additional plutonium-239. Thus, the Stage II FBRs are designed to “breed” more fuel than they consume. Once the inventory of plutonium-239 is built up thorium can be introduced as a blanket material in the reactor and transmuted to uranium-233 for use in the third stage.

The surplus plutonium bred in each fast reactor can be used to set up more such reactors, and might thus grow the Indian civil nuclear power capacity till the point where the third stage reactors using thorium as fuel can be brought online, which is forecasted as being possible once 50 GW of nuclear power capacity has been achieved. The uranium in the first stage PHWRs that yield 29 EJ of energy in the once-through fuel cycle, can be made to yield between 65 and 128 times more energy through multiple cycles in fast breeder reactors.

The design of the country’s first fast breeder, called Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR), was done by Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR). Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd (Bhavini), a public sector company under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), has been given the responsibility to build the fast breeder reactors in India. The construction of this PFBR at Kalpakkam was due to be completed in 2012. It is not yet complete. A start date in 2015 has been suggested.

In addition, the country proposes to undertake the construction of four FBRs as part of the 12th Five Year Plan spanning 2012–17, thus targeting 2500 MW from the five reactors. One of these five reactors is planned to be operated with metallic fuel instead of oxide fuel, since the design will have the flexibility to accept metallic fuel, although the reference design is for oxide fuel. Indian government has already allotted Rs.250 crore for pre-project activities for two more 500 MW units, although the location is yet to be finalised. Because of the inherent danger in fast breeder reactors, there has been some talk of building the new ones underground.

Doubling time refers to the time required to extract as output, double the amount of fissile fuel, which was fed as input into the breeder reactors. This metric is critical for understanding the time durations that are unavoidable while transitioning from the second stage to the third stage of Bhabha’s plan, because building up a sufficiently large fissile stock is essential to the large deployment of the third stage.

  1. Stage III – Thorium Based Reactors (TBR)

A Stage III reactor or an advanced nuclear power system involves a self-sustaining series of thorium-232-uranium-233 fuelled reactors. This would be a thermal breeder reactor, which in principle can be refueled – after its initial fuel charge – using only naturally occurring thorium. According to the three-stage programme, Indian nuclear energy could grow to about 10 GW through PHWRs fueled by domestic uranium, and the growth above that would have to come from FBRs till about 50GW. The third stage is to be deployed only after this capacity has been achieved.

According to replies given in Q&A in the Indian Parliament on two separate occasions, 19 August 2010 and 21 March 2012, large scale thorium deployment is only to be expected “3 – 4 decades after the commercial operation of fast breeder reactors with short doubling time”. Full exploitation of India’s domestic thorium reserves will likely not occur until after the year 2050.

Parallel approaches

As there is a long delay before direct thorium utilisation in the three-stage programme, the country is now looking at reactor designs that allow more direct use of thorium in parallel with the sequential three-stage programme. Three options under consideration are the Accelerator Driven Systems (ADS), Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) and Compact High Temperature Reactor. Molten Salt Reactor may also be under consideration based on some recent reports.

Jai Hind.