Monthly Archives: June 2006

Economics of Nuclear Power from Heavy Water Reactors

The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has advanced plans for a large scale expansion of nuclear power in India. CISED carried out a series of studies that show that such an expansion makes little economic sense.

One important result is that despite being significantly subsidized by the DAE, nuclear electricity is more expensive than the main alternative for generating baseline power in coal based thermal stations. This is true even for thermal stations that are situated far from coal mines and therefore have to bear large costs for transporting coal. Our economic comparison assumed that the thermal plant that we considered, namely the Raichur Thermal Power Station, receives coal from mines that are 1400 km away; yet its electricity electricity production cost is lower than the corresponding figure for the Kaiga nuclear reactors. This is an extreme example in that about one-third of Indiaís coal plants are located right next to a mine pithead, and another quarter or more are within 500 km of one.

Our studies also show that there are two significant subsidies being extended to nuclear power.

Heavy Water Price: Nuclear Power Corporation leases heavy water from the DAE based on a price of Rs. 12,525 per kilogram of heavy water (2003 prices). Adopting standard accounting methods, we show that the production cost of heavy water should be somewhere between Rs. 20,900 and Rs. 29,200 depending on assumptions about plant efficiencies and lifetimes.

Reprocessing:  Each 220 MW reactor produces about 31,000 kg/year (at 80% efficiency) of radioactive spent fuel. The DAE bears the significant cost of dealing with the such spent fuel. For an estimate of the actual figures, see Economics of Reprocessing of Spent Fuel


Ramana, M.V., Antonette D’Sa, and Amulya K.N. Reddy, 2005, "Economics of Nuclear Power from Heavy Water Reactors", Economic and Political Weekly, XL (17): 1763-1773, April 23. [Full paper: Pdf file, 69 KB]

Ramana, M.V., 2007, "Economics of Nuclear Power: Subsidies and competitiveness", Economic and Political Weekly, XLII (2): 169-171, January 13. [Full paper: Pdf file, 25.8 KB]

M.V. Ramana, 2007, "Heavy Subsidies in Heavy Water: Economics of Nuclear Power in India", Economic and Political Weekly, XLII (34), pp. 3483-3490, August 25. [Full Paper: Pdf file, 328 KB]

Ramana, M.V., and Amulya K.N. Reddy, 2005, "Nuclear power is not cheap", The Indian Express, June 20.

Ramana, M.V., 2005, "Nuclear power: Expensive and unsafe", Electrical India, Annual issue.

Ramana, M.V., 2006, "Don’t switch over to nuclear power", The Economic Times, March 10.

Ramana, M.V., 2006, "Let’s not chase the atom", Down To Earth, 14 (21), March 18, also available at

Ramana, M.V., and J.Y. Suchitra, 2006, "Nuclear Power: No Route to Energy Security", Energy Security Insights, March. [Full Paper: Pdf file, 84 KB]

Ramana, M.V., and J.Y. Suchitra, 2006, "Flaws in the pro-nuclear argument", InfoChange India (5), June. [Full Paper: Pdf file, 600 KB]

Ramana, M. V., 2007, "More Missiles than Megawatts", IEEE Spectrum, July.

Ramana, M. V., 2007, "The Costs of Nuclear Energy", Dainik Janambhumi, (in Assamese), September 10.

Ramana, M.V., and J.Y. Suchitra, 2008, "Nuclear Energy: A Costly Affair", Hosathu, January, pp. 50-54.