India will now develop its own stockpile of nuclear fuel to fulfil its energy needs, taking advantage of the guarantees given in the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement, Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar said on Thursday.
"The fuel supply guarantee is in the inter-governmental agreement, the fuel supply agreement and the nuclear reactor agreement. On top of it, we will develop our own stockpile of nuclear fuel," Kakodkar told during an interaction with members of the Merchants Chamber of Commerce.
Noting that the physical size of the N-fuel inventory was small, he said, "in the agreement, we have built in a right to store a lifetime of fuel stockpiles. This is embedded as a legal guarantee on thorium. In reality, how much we will
stockpile will be for us to decide."
Asked what he meant by a lifetime, he said it depended on the type of reactors being used. "Heavy Water Reactors
can be run for 30 years by replacing components. The Advanced HWRs we are designing will have a life of 100 years."
Kakodkar, who was speaking on 'Perspectives on Evolving Nuclear Power Programme', said while 4,000 MW of
N-power was being produced in the country, taking this to10,000 MW by 2020 would not be an issue by recycling thorium as fuel with three-stage technology.
Kakodkar said that to meet the nuclear fuel mismatch, steps were being taken to open more uranium mines in various places across the country. These include three new mines at the existing uranium mining site at Singhbhum in Jharkhand and one each at Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Meghalaya.
Asked whether N-power generation presented an opportunity for the small and the medium sector, he said as per the Atomic Energy Act, only a company in which the government had at least 51 per cent share could enter the sector.
"Within this framework, any Indian entity can participate, but it must be noted that once N-power generation is started,
its reactor safety system cannot be closed down. Also unless an entity is willing to work long-term and ride over the
short-term fluctuations, it is not advisable for that entity to enter the nuclear sector," he said.
Though the nuclear power sector held a lot of promise, it was advisable for companies willing to enter the sector to
first "learn the ropes" under Indian conditions by being a junior partner of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited, Kakodkar said.
Kakodkar, however, parried a question whether the proposed N-power plant at Haripur in West Bengal had been abandoned and an alternative site selected in adjoining Orissa. "Site selection is technical and political process. I can say that the government is considering several options."