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India Nuclear Power Sector

India’s installed power capacity currently stands at 405GW and is projected to reach 810GW by 2030.  Twenty-two operational nuclear power reactors with a cumulative capacity of 6.8 GW account for about three percent of India’s energy mix.  India’s commitments at the COP26 Summit to install 500GW of non-fossil energy capacity by 2030, reduce the amount of carbon emissions by one billion tons by 2030, achieve net zero targets by 2070, and meeting 50% of energy requirements with renewable energy by 2030, have renewed the focus on India’s nuclear sector.

Current Scenario:

Aside from the 22 operational reactors with aggregate capacity of 6780 MW, India is constructing another 11 nuclear power plants with a cumulative capacity of 8700 MW including a Prototype 500 MW Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) and four Pressurized Water Reactors of 1000 MW each based on Russian technology.  The government has sanctioned another ten indigenous Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) of 700 MW capacity each setting the stage for higher capacities by the target date of 2031.

Key Players and Regulatory Environment:

Key energy policy organizations of the Government of India (GOI) including NITI Aayog and the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) have renewed their focus on nuclear power to help achieve India’s clean energy transition objectives. 

The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) is responsible for the regulatory process and enforcement of nuclear safety.  It regulates the entire process of site selection, construction, commissioning, operation, and decommissioning of nuclear power plants.  AERB’s responsibilities also span across nuclear applications in medicine, industry, agriculture, and research.

The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL), and the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) are the key organizations that play a pivotal role in the nuclear energy sector in India.  All three are under the control of the Indian government.

NPCIL is the owner and operator of all nuclear power plants (except the PFBR variants, owned by The Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR))  and the primary contact for all nuclear business in India.

NTPC is a major producer of electricity from coal and accounts for 70GW capacity and is seeking to adopt nuclear reactors as part of its strategy to phase out old coal plants. 

Nuclear Liability and Insurance:

India signed and ratified the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, 1997 (CSC) in 2016.  The CSC establishes a global regime for compensation to victims in the unlikely event of a nuclear accident.  India’s signing of the CSC opened opportunities for global nuclear suppliers to participate in the Indian nuclear sector with access to compensation in case of an accident.  India has also passed a law on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages (CNLD) in 2010. The GOI believes that the CLND is in conformity with CSC and sets liabilities for nuclear operators and mandates nuclear operators to take out insurance policy or financial security or a combination of both to cover its liability.

Suppliers, however, remain unconvinced about liability exposure since the CLND does have a provision that allows the nuclear power operator the right of recourse against the supplier following a nuclear accident.  The GOI, therefore, has established the Indian Nuclear Insurance Pool (INIP) with the General Insurance Corporation of India (GIC-Re), along with several other Indian Insurance companies to insure suppliers against potential liability claims by the operator.  The INIP has a capacity of $15 billion to provide insurance to suppliers to cover liability risks stemming from the operator’s right of recourse.


India plans to expand its nuclear power generation from about three percent to 9-10 percent. The Indian nuclear energy landscape has been built on the back of the Indian private sector with the sole nuclear power operator NPCIL contracting out construction, equipment, and services associated with the nuclear power plants.  Foreign providers of power equipment components and controls which falls under the non-nuclear part of the nuclear power plant can partner with Indian companies to participate in India’s massive nuclear build-out without associated concerns about supplier liability exposure.

India plans to phase out its old coal plants and include nuclear power to augment its baseload power generation. Opportunities may exist for Small Modular Reactors (SMR) that help save cost and construction time and delays that plague the build-out of nuclear power plants.  Technology sharing, especially for SMR’s is an area of interest for GOI  . While  cost and regulatory challenges may push partnerships in SMR technology into the future, discussions on potential collaborations and technology development could start now.

Green hydrogen production, the decarbonization of the transportation sector, powering of EV Batteries and hydrogen fuels cells would need clean sources of energy. Renewables including solar, wind and others may not be able to support this transition due to intermittency challenges and capacity utilization factors, therefore, nuclear power could be another potential source for clean power. 

India’s energy demands will only continue to rise and with over 70 percent of its energy needs being met by base load coal-based power plants, nuclear power will play a very important role in India’s clean energy transition.
U.S. organizations interested in the Indian nuclear market may reach out to the nearest U.S. office or the U.S. Commercial Service in India.