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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Souvik Ghosh

The Environmental Impact and Sustainability of Planned Nuclear New Build in India

Souvik Ghosh

The Environmental Impact and Sustainability of Planned Nuclear New Build in India

 

Energy is of fundamental strategic importance to the planning of any country, especially for a country like India with a fast growing economy and an ever‑growing population. Moreover, this energy needs to be safe and clean leaving less carbon footprint, and growth has to be inclusive with access for everyone to clean and convenient means of energy. Therefore addressing the objective of economic growth in a sustainable and inclusive way is challenging. For India, the fossil fuel has been the primary source for meeting the national energy demand. However, in view of the abovementioned challenge India is looking toward alternate energy sources, and nuclear energy is identified as a key alternative. To achieve this goal, the country aims at a massive expansion of its nuclear capacity. This would involve building new power plants, mining and transportation facilities and related infrastructure. This would have a considerable impact on the environment and demography of the region. Therefore, to achieve this goal in a sustainable way from the perspectives of socio-economy, safety, security and clean energy it is essential that a thorough sustainability analysis is carried out before setting up of a new build.

This dissertation is motivated by the scenario such as India as discussed above that emphasizes the need for a sustainable nuclear power facility. It identifies the different variables that play an important role in determining the sustainability of a nuclear fuel cycle. The findings are then used to analyse the evolving international guidelines called the Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO). This study identifies areas for improvement in INPRO and puts forward recommendations for the same. In particular, need for significant improvements were identified in the area of human ecology and meeting of public expectation. This is challenging depending on the demography of the region. Therefore this is suggested to be brought under a new regime called social sustainability. An analysis is carried out on this with a special focus on the public unrest issues in the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project in India, touted to be the largest nuclear power facility of the world. References are drawn from the Western Australian Council of Social Service (WACOSS) and recommendations for addressing the social sustainability of a nuclear new build are suggested for being included into the INPRO framework.

Focus was also given to studying thorium as a prospective nuclear fuel for Indian nuclear scenario. Thorium is abundant on the Indian shores and plays an important strategic role in India’s nuclear program. This study identifies the advantages and disadvantages of thorium as a nuclear fuel addressing the INPRO sustainability guidelines. The future scope of thorium in safe reactor technology is also discussed with references to India’s initiatives.