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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 06 May 2023


Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 06 May 2023


Contents

  1. Indian Nuclear Power: Opportunities, Challenges, and the Future
  2. Strategic Plan for the Blue Economy

Indian Nuclear Power: Opportunities, Challenges, and the Future


Context:

  • Efforts to increase the production of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, have been made in order to achieve the net zero goal in order to address the risks posed by climate change.However, it’s crucial to consider any potential contributions nuclear power might be able to make to achieving this goal.
  • According to a recent government announcement, NTPC and NPCIL will work together through a joint venture (JV) to build 4.2 GW of nuclear power capacity at two sites in India by 2035.

Relevance:

GS Paper-3: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life

Mains Question

Analyse the legislative restrictions and policy framework that have impeded India’s nuclear power industry’s expansion. (150 Words)


How Does Nuclear Power Produce Power?

  • Nuclear fission, which involves dividing an atom’s nucleus into two smaller nuclei, is the process used to produce nuclear power.
  • A significant amount of energy is released during this process in the form of heat, which is then used to produce electricity.
  • Uranium-235 is typically used as fuel to produce nuclear power. Neutrons bombard uranium-235 atoms, causing them to split into two smaller atoms and release more neutrons as a result. These liberated neutrons may then strike other uranium-235 atoms, splitting them in a series of reactions.
  • The heat produced by nuclear fission is used to boil water, creating steam that powers turbines attached to generators.
  • The turbines’ mechanical energy is transformed by the generators into electrical energy that can be used to run buildings and other structures.

Highlights:

  • India currently uses 3% of its electricity from nuclear sources.
  • Other developed nations are working to scale up reactors even though Germany has shut down its last ones.
  • France currently gets about 70% of its energy from nuclear sources, and it plans to keep doing so.
  • Nuclear power currently provides 20% of US electricity production; this percentage may rise in the future.
  • The United Kingdom, South Korea, and even Japan—the country where the Fukushima accident occurred in 2011—plan to increase the proportion of nuclear power in their electricity mix.
  • The Central Electricity Authority recently calculated that nuclear power plants’ capital costs are 2.5 times higher than those of coal-based plants (although fuel savings partially offset this difference).
  • By 2035, China wants to have 10% nuclear power in its energy mix.
  • Our current target is only to have 22.5GW capacity by 2031; if we were to target the same share by 2040, then taking into account the increased power demand due to electrification—a key component of the energy transition—our nuclear power capacity would have to increase from 6.8GW to around 65GW.

Policy framework and regulatory issues that have hindered India’s nuclear power industry’s growth:

  • Liability Law: o Under the CLNDA (Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act), even if the operator of a nuclear plant is not at fault, they are still liable for any damage that results. They are therefore strictly and faultlessly liable.
  • Tariff Policy: In India, the tariff structure does not adequately account for the true cost of nuclear power production. This is so that other energy sources, like coal and oil, can receive government subsidies.
    • Nuclear power finds it difficult to compete on an even playing field with other energy sources as a result of the subsidies.
  • Public Opposition: In India, there has been a sizable public backlash against nuclear energy, primarily over safety issues.
    • Because of this opposition, the government has found it difficult to construct new nuclear power plants and expand existing ones.
  • Regulatory Framework: Foreign investors may find it difficult to navigate India’s complicated regulatory landscape.
    • Because of this complexity, it may be difficult to get the necessary approvals and permits to construct new nuclear power plants.
  • Financing Obstacles: o Because they are capital-intensive projects that demand sizable investments, new nuclear power plants can be difficult to finance.
    • Securing funding for these projects can be difficult, particularly when there are questions about the regulatory environment and liability concerns.

Coal-based power versus renewable energy versus nuclear power

  • High upfront capital costs for constructing and operating nuclear power plants are a drawback of nuclear power.
  • Strict regulatory standards for security and safety, which may increase costs.
  • The potential for accidents involving nuclear waste, which could have serious negative effects on the environment and human health.
  • Nuclear energy is a low-carbon energy source that can assist India in lowering its greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Nuclear energy offers a dependable baseload power source, which is essential for supplying an expanding economy’s energy needs.
  • Nuclear power plants can run for up to 60 years or more and have a long lifespan, ensuring a steady energy supply for a very long time.
  • Costs: Building infrastructure for renewable energy is frequently more expensive up front than building infrastructure for power generated from fossil fuels.
  • Renewable energy is frequently influenced by the weather, and intermittent power supply can be problematic.
  • Some renewable energy technologies need a lot of land, which could lead to environmental issues and conflicts over land use.
  • Benefits: Renewable energy is a clean energy source that combats climate change because it doesn’t release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
  • India has a wealth of renewable energy resources, including wind and solar energy.
  • India can lessen its reliance on fossil fuels, which are frequently imported and are prone to price volatility.
  • Costs: Coal-based power is a significant source of air pollution, which has negative effects on the environment and human health.
  • Coal mining and transportation can have a big impact on the environment, causing things like water pollution and land degradation.
  • Due to India’s heavy reliance on imported coal, the price of electricity production may be influenced by changes in the price of coal globally.
  • Benefits: Coal-based power is frequently less expensive than other electricity sources, making it an economical way to meet India’s energy needs.
  • Coal-fired power plants can be constructed quickly, offering a quick fix for India’s expanding energy needs.
  • India has sizable coal reserves that could offer long-term energy security and assist in lowering reliance on imported oil.

Way Forward

  • The best course of action is to permit private companies to operate nuclear power plants. o At the moment, nuclear power plants in India can only be operated by public sector undertakings (PSUs).
    • Enabling private players to operate in the market can bring in capital and technology, which can speed up implementation and lower costs.
  • Promote the use of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs): SMRs are a novel technology that enables the prefabrication of reactor units in factories, resulting in scale economies and lowering costs.
    • In order to transition the nation to net zero, existing coal-based power plants that are to be phased out could also have SMRs installed.
  • Examine joint ventures with foreign firms: o By allowing JVs with tech-savvy foreign firms, India would be able to investigate the possibility of French and Japanese firms setting up nuclear power plants there.
    • SMRs, which typically have a capacity of under 300MW, are being commercialised by South Korea in collaboration with US companies.
  • Provide financing through a combination of bilateral official credit and loans from sovereign wealth funds: Public-private partnerships would require some public sector investment, but there could be a sizable additional amount of funding through a combination of bilateral official credit and loans from sovereign wealth funds.
    • An important source of such credit may be the International Finance Corporation.
  • Modifying the 2010 Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act
    • The Act expands liability to nuclear equipment suppliers in the event that an equipment malfunction results in a catastrophe.
    • This is inconsistent with current international practise, which limits liability to the operator and is coverable. The Act may be amended to promote the involvement of private parties in the nuclear power industry.

Conclusion:

While the expansion of nuclear power in India is required to reach the net zero target, it should be done in a way that is safe, economical, and environmentally sustainable.


Strategic Plan for the Blue Economy


Context

  • The G20 leaders will address urgent policy needs for collective advancement, equity, and inclusive growth while India holds the presidency.
    • Numerous conferences will also be held all over the nation to discuss ways to address a variety of problems, including climate finance, technology sharing, financial inclusion, and digital public infrastructure.
    • SAI20, the Engagement Group for Supreme Audit Institutions (SAls) of G20 nations, will be presided over by the Comptroller & Auditor General of India (CAG) in Goa in June.

Relevance:

GS Paper-2: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests; G20

Mains Question

What reasons for concern exist for India’s coastline? How does the CAG’s blueprint help with these problems? (250 Words)


Key Highlights:

  • India has set the tone and perspective for commitment to green development, circular economy, and lifestyle behaviour changes as an actionable plan for achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals with the summit theme of “One Earth, One Family, One Future.”
  • Blue economy and responsible artificial intelligence have been chosen as the two priority areas for SAI20 discussions.

Supreme Audit Institutions’ (SAls) importance 20 Deliberations:

  • It is essential to involve SAIs in executive advice-giving to strike a balance between the most important developmental concerns and ensuring sustainable development.
  • SAIs are crucial in ensuring that the advantages of economic growth are distributed fairly among generations, as evidenced by their role in promoting intergenerational equity and addressing climate change issues.
  • SAI20 member countries are engaged in a collaborative exercise to evolve globally relevant audit toolkits along with a compendium of case studies and challenges in the broader framework of auditing coastal spaces, which, inter alia, include legal and institutional frameworks, compliance to coastal regulation, biodiversity, and marine water quality. o For SAI20, the CAG is to prepare technology-driven tools to assess authorised development in coastal stretches and track marine water quality.

Blue economy road map:

  • The ocean economy, also known as the blue economy, is thought to be worth $2.5 trillion annually on a global scale.
    • Sea routes account for roughly 90% of all global trade.
  • In recent years, interest in the blue economy has been steadily growing.
    • Investors can use the Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Principles, which the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) first unveiled in 2018, as a framework to support ocean-based businesses.
    • It can be used as a benchmark by financiers to understand how marine investment can affect livelihood and the eradication of poverty.
  • The COP15 biodiversity framework acts as a guide for nations to collaborate and advance in addressing the global biodiversity crisis.
  • The blue economy includes a variety of activities related to the coast, such as tourism and fishing.
  • Due to competing definitions and problems with categorising various sectors and sub-sectors, measuring the blue economy is difficult.
    • Current international economic classifications are unable to distinguish between activities that take place on land and those that take place in the ocean, and even the System of National Accounts (NAS) does not give a clear picture of the blue economy.
    • As a result of these challenges, a new accounting framework that can unbiasedly identify production, trade, and services associated with the various sectors of the blue economy is required.
  • The CAG values independence, accountability, and transparency as a public audit authority; these principles will continue to be the cornerstone of SAI20.
    • The CAG’s long-term priorities include developing national accounting guidelines and compliance standards for the blue economy.
  • The Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification for 2011 and 2019 was implemented between 2015 and 2019, according to the Conservation of Coastal Ecosystem report that the CAG submitted to Parliament in August of last year.
  • It examined the efficiency of key development factors like project approvals, construction activity, institutional ability to stop land and forest violations, community livelihood support mechanisms, and mitigation management plans to conserve biodiversities like mangroves and near-shore coral reefs that shield us from weather vulnerabilities like storms and coastal floods.
    • The audit produced targeted suggestions for enhancing the CRZ ecosystem.
  • Some indicators of climate change include sea level rise, water temperature, storm surges, and wave conditions.
    • Sand mining, deforestation, and unrestrained land use changes have an impact on the coastal ecosystem.
  • Studies show that the risks of cyclones and sea level rise are likely to be higher in coastal areas in the context of India.
    • According to one study, agriculture, declining forest cover, and urbanisation are to blame for changes in 15% of India’s coastal areas between 1992 and 2018 on GIS maps from the European Space Agency.In addition, it is anticipated that by 2060, there will be 216 million people living along the country’s coastline, up from 64 million in 2000.
  • Coastal infrastructure that is disaster-resistant and can withstand the effects of hurricanes, typhoons, and tsunamis is urgently needed.
    • This is crucial for coastal communities because they are more susceptible to the effects of rising sea levels and storms that are stronger and more frequent.
    • The executives need to have the proper infrastructure, particularly ICT hubs for early warning systems.
    • The creation of disaster-resistant infrastructure has ramifications for the auditing community, as auditors are in charge of making sure that businesses abide by pertinent laws and standards.

Comptroller and Auditor General

  • The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) is mentioned in Articles 148 to 151 of Part V of the Indian Constitution.
    • The Indian Audit and Accounts Department is led by him/her.
    • He or she oversees the nation’s entire financial system at both the federal and state levels and serves as the keeper of the public purse.
    • A warrant bearing the President of India’s signature and seal appoints the CAG.
    • He holds office for a period of six years, or until the earlier of the age of 65.
  • Roles: o He is responsible for upholding the Indian Constitution and the laws passed by Parliament in the area of financial management.
    • He provides the President with three audit reports.
  • Report on the appropriation accounts audit.
  • A report on the financial accounts’ audit.
  • Report on public undertakings’ audit
    • While dealing with the audit and accounting of government-owned businesses, CAG lacks some judicial authority to bring legal violations against offenders.
  • CAG has some quasi-judicial authority but only serves as an advisory body.
    • The Public Account Committee’s “friend, philosopher, and guide” is the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Way Forward

  • The SAI20 Engagement Group will present the toolkits that are being created under the direction of the CAG of India at their meeting.
  • This will present a rare chance for positive discussion and agreement to enhance auditing of performance in particular ocean-based activity areas.
  • This cooperative effort would help regional auditing communities like ASOSAI and AFROSAI by providing a common and replicable auditing tool, in addition to initially increasing the capacity of auditors across SAI20 member countries.
  • This will make it easier to evaluate how well the policy objectives are thought out and put into practise, as well as how resource efficiency is upheld while taking advantage of economic opportunities to create a truly sustainable blue economy-based global development model.

Conclusion

The Ministry of Earth Sciences has developed a National Blue Economy Policy that aims to harness maritime resources while preserving the nation’s rich marine biodiversity. India has designated the blue economy as one of the 10 core sectors for national growth.

 


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