India should scale up and pace up construction of nuclear plants to meet its insatiable power demand, renewable programme and climate change targets, the head of an international atomic body has said.
"Currently, India has five reactors under construction with 3,300-MWe capacity. But this is too little for a country with so many people," said Agneta Rising, director general of the World Nuclear Association.
India's first nuclear electricity plant became operational in 1969. Comparatively, China has 20 reactors under construction with 22,596-MWe capacity, having had the first nuclear electricity in 1994.
Oil-rich Saudi Arabia has planned 16 reactors with 17,000-MWe, with first nuclear electricity expected in 2022, according to the association's Asia Special Update report, which listed the kingdom among the newcomers to nuclear energy.
India has the technology, expertise and skill to build its own nuclear plants, Rising said, adding there were no restriction on India importing uranium. But despite the knowledge, India takes about seven years or 84 months to complete a reactor, Rising pointed out.
The world average of building a reactor was 73 months in 2015. India needs to speed up construction period for each reactor to 73 months, she stressed.
"India has a lot of experience of nuclear science and it has all the technologies. But it must be able to scale up or ramp the nuclear electricity programme," she told PTI.
India's goal is to have 14.5 GWe of nuclear generating capacity online by 2024, up from 6,219 MWe at present, the report said.
The government has given in principle approval for new nuclear plants at 10 sites in nine states.
"It is important to have (nuclear) infrastructure where you can build prosperity and (take care of) health of the people," said Rising, stressing the importance of electricity supply reliability and the need to reduce pollution across the country for the people.
"India needs to get on to do it (nuclear plants) on a scale and increase the construction pace of the plants," she said.