Prospects of Nuclear Energy in India in relation to France

Sankar Hajra

In this article, in a context of nuclear energy generated by France in 2004 we study the fuel viability of Uranium.  We  examine  (i)  the data given in the Energy Mix  Fact Sheet-France 2004, (ii)   the  data on  economic  expenditure for nuclear  Plant Operation, nuclear Plant Building  and  Decommissioning ,  Waste Disposal  and after Fukushima Surveillance   and (iii)   the  energy expenditure data for    extraction of Uranium from  the Uranium ore (with  0.067% Uranium content) of Olympic Dam of South Australia (that would produce  in 2011 one seventeenth of the total Uranium production of the world). From  these three  groups of data  using standard mathematical procedures / standard chemical procedures we  present   evidence showing  that   fuel viability of Uranium prepared from ores containing 0.067% or more Uranium  may be  positive,  but  that  prepared from   0.01% Uranium Ore is   negative. Therefore, we may naturally ask the  nuclear technologists of India:  if France has no better or  little better  utility of Uranium fuel processed from 0.3 % ores than coal ,  how India will get commercial benefit using her  0.01 %  domestic grades of Uranium ores  or  0.1% grades of Uranium ores  imported from Niger?

Keywords:  Real fuel, false fuel, Nuclear Electricity, Energy-investment, Energy-return, intrinsic cost advantage, carbon-di-oxide emission

Martin Heinrich Klaproth discovered Uranium (Uranium-238) in Berlin in 1789.  Its name was given after the name of the planet Uranus. Natural Uranium (Uranium-238, henceforth Uranium) contains 0.7% Uranium-235 which acts as fuel burning-up to high amount of heat energy through some ingenious secret devices. Therefore,   Uranium   is considered as one of the prospective commercial fuels.

We  show  that  (A) burn-up energy per gram of Uranium is within 72, 380 KcalsH and  87, 430  KcalsH,  (B) commissioning  and  decommissioning of reactors,  waste disposal and after-Fukushima-surveillance work  require 38,223 KcalsH  per gram of Uranium burn-up, (C)  fuel viability of Uranium prepared from ores containing 0.067% or more Uranium  may be  positive,  but  that prepared from 0.01% UraniumOre is negative, (D) foreign  carbon-dioxide emissions to produce  10,500  tonnes of Uranium that France imports from foreign countries, each year, total about 32.6 million tonnesfor0.067%  ores  and 218.4  million tonnes for 0.01% ores per year, (E) hidden Carbon-di-oxide emission relating to yearly  burn –up of  10, 500 tons of  Uranium is 183 million tonnes distributed over half a century in aggregate  before and after the  reactor-life-time,  (F) France’s nuclear power is in no way more competitive or  of lower cost than many of other options for supplying electric power and finally judge the prospects of Nuclear energy in India for commercial use.

The aim of our study is to judge the fuel viability of Uranium and its effectiveness for commercial use to increase the electricity consumption per capita in India and some other developing countries in the South Eastern Asia.

Material and Methods:
We collected data from reports like,   The Costs of Nuclear Power Sector, Summary of the Public Thematic Report by the Cour des Comptes (2012), The Costs of Nuclear Power Sector, Thematic Public Report by Cour des Comptes, Main Report (2012),   Index Mundi (2019), International Atomic Agency (1993),  World Nuclear Association ( 2014, 2019 ), World Steel Association (2014, 2019),  Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2003, 2018), Wikipaedia (2019) etc.  

The conclusion of the article is based on data analysis method.  Collected data of the aforementioned sources were analyzed and   compared to decide.  Energy expenditure were calculated from standard physico –chemical processes as given in   the classical chemical calculation book like “Chemical calculation” of Ashley, R.  Harman (1915) along with David M. Himmeblau’s “Supplementary problems for basic principles and calculations in chemical engineering” (1996).

Real fuel and 'false fuel'
To know whether a fuel is real fuel or not is to determine whether the fuel has a positive net energy-yield (energy-return) i.e., the fuel produces greater amounts of energy when it is used than the energy investment  in extracting the fuel from basic raw materials  and making, processing, transporting  as well as disposing of residues of the fuel. A huge amount of energy is obtained when Hydrogen, Aluminium or thermite (a mixture of powdered aluminium and oxides of iron) are burned. But energy obtained from combustion of those fuels is not greater than the energy spent to make them from natural resources. Therefore, hydrogen and thermite cannot be treated as real fuels. Electricity could be readily generated from combustion of those fuels but electricity made from those fuels will be more energy-expensive than electricity made from coal or petroleum. Hydrogen and Aluminium, although seemingly prospective as fuels, are actually false or energy-negative fuels. Similarly, it is said by nuclear technologists that one thermal MW day energy is required to produce 0.9 gram of Plutonium.



Hence, plutonium just like hydrogen and Aluminium is a false fuel. False fuels may serve as real fuel only when they are available as formerly useless by-products and benefit from 'upstream energy subsidies'.

Primary Energy Supply in France
 Now, to analyze the claims of France, we need to know (a) how much fossil fuel and renewable fuel (hydroelectricity, geothermal energy, waste-to-energy, wind turbines, solar photovoltaic and CSP), as well as gas by-products of industry such as blast furnace gases used in France as primary fuel supply, (b) Electricity generated and  (c) French final consumption for the end uses of energy.

We give below France’s primary energy supply and final consumption of energy in 2004 as per France –Energy Mix Fact Sheet [ FEMFS (2004)].

Table 1. Energy mix fact sheet-France-2004


Primary supply

Domestic Production

Net imports

Final Consumption

Electricity Generation (TWh)

Solid fuels
















































 (Mtoe = Million ton oil equivalent, TWh = Trillion Watthours)

Fuel viability of Uranium Fuel used by France
World Nuclear Association  mentions that 17 %  of France’s nuclear electricity generated (448.2 TWh)  comes from  recycled materials .  15 TWh electricity  went only to Tricastin Uranium Enrichment Plant to enrich Natural Uranium [WNA (2019)].

France’s   nuclear reactors consumed 10,500 tonnes of Uranium .  Therefore from 10,500 tonnes of Uranium, France got  (448.2−76.2−15) TWh= 357  TWh electricity in 2004.


In the same table  we see that in 2004  France used 14.1 Mtoe of coal as primary energy supply, but Index Mundi  [IM (2019)a] provides figures as (23,767, 000 short tons)  21.6  Mtoe (  1 short ton = 0.907185 metric ton).  Therefore, we may conclude that France might have used 163.4  Mtoe of fossil fuels in 2004 and not 146.10 Mtoe. In case France used 163.4  Mtoe of Fossil fuel  in 2004 as per Index Mundi (2019)b, instead of 146.1 Mtoe of Fossil  fuel  as per her Energy Mix data of that year,   heat energy released per gram of Uranium  will be 72, 380  KcalsH instead of 87,430  KcalsH  i.e., average 80, 000 Kcals/gram (approximately) considering heat of combustion of coal = 8 Kcals/gm. and that of crude petroleum 10 Kcals/gm.                                                                                                                                                                                                                         
This study upholds our proposition (A):burn-up energy  per gram of  Uranium is within 72, 380 KcalsH and  87, 430  KcalsH.

 Energy Expenditure for Plant Operation, Plant Building & Decommissioning ,  Waste Disposal  and after Fukushima Surveillance

Nowadays (2010), reactor installment cost is 9 b$ per reactor and  decommissioning , waste disposal and after Fukushima surveillance  cost 9 b$ per  reactor . 

Energy expenditure for these two performances = One-sixth of the total cost (say)= 3 b$ per reactor. This suggests that energy expenditure for plant building, decommissioning, waste disposal & after-Fukushima-surveillance  is 38, 223 Kcals per gram of Uranium.


As per World Steel Association [WSA (2019)], “On average, 20 GJ of energy is consumed per tonne of crude steel produced globally”. As per World Steel Association  [WSA (2014)] , energy constitutes a significant portion of the cost of steel production from 20%-40% in some countries.  To commission and to decommission a  nuclear reactor, similar proportion of energy cost  is plausible.  Therefore,  we may consider that  energy expenditure  for these two performances = 1/6th   of  18 b$  =  3 b$ per  reactor.

For burn up of 1 gram of Uranium (or equivalent  enriched Uranium),  energy expenditure  for reactor installment & decommissioning  (along with waste disposal and after-Fukushima-surveillance)  cost  = 3,000,000,000 / (5250×1000×1000) dollars= 0.6 dollar

Coal used =12,741×0.6 grams  ≡12,741× 0.6 × 5  Kcals=  38, 223  Kcals.

Proportionate Energy expenditure for reactor installment & decommissioning (along with waste disposal  and after-Fukushima-surveillance) to burn –up 1 gram of Uranium ( or equivalent  enriched Uranium) =38,223 Kcals).

This upholds our proposition (B): analysesof energy expenditure show that   commissioning  & decommissioning of reactors,  waste disposal and after-Fukushima-surveillance work  require 38,223  Kcals per gram of Uranium burn-up.

Now let us find what amount of energy was spent to prepare that amount of Uranium from its available ores?

Status of Uranium as fuel, real or false?
Uranium is not available in nature in a free state.  It is available in ores. Recent Uranium mining activities are constrained to use ores that contain only 0.01-0.05 % of Uranium           [Herring (2004)]. In actual practice, taking account of mining and operation losses, many Uranium mines process approximately 2000 grams of their ores to yield  1 gram  of natural Uranium. The ore is treated with various chemicals to separate Uranium from other ingredients [Hyett (1984)]. To produce those chemicals, heat energy is abundantly required. Now,  heat required for chemical processes comes generally from the combustion of fossil fuels. Therefore, to prepare  Uranium fuel,   fossil fuels are required in the long run.  But the essential question is: how much fossil fuel is required to get 1gram of Uranium from its now available ores? We give a simple study to elucidate  this problem below.

After preliminary concentration to remove sand and clay, the ore is leached with sulphuric acid and treated with an excess of the acid and then with hydrogen sulphide to precipitate all metallic radicals other than Uranium. The filtrate is then treated with an excess of ammonium hydroxide to precipitate Uranium as ammonium diurate which is ignited to prepare U3O8. This U3O8 is reduced to UO2 by hydrogen. The di-oxide is converted into Uranium fluoride by heating it strongly in gaseous hydrogen fluoride. The fluoride is then reduced to the metal by means of pure metallic calcium. However, now a-days selective tertiary amines are used to separate Uranium from the leached solution of the ore.

Sulphuric Acid, Hydrochloric Acid, Hydrogen Sulphide, Sodium Carbonate, Ammonium Hydroxide, Hydrogen and Calcium are not available in nature. In the ultimate analysis, fossil fuels and other chemicals are required   to prepare those elements and compounds. We  now tabulate the energy interplayed/ involved/ used /  required in making those basic chemicals needed to extract natural Uranium from its ores.

Generally, the volumes of chemicals needed in any manufacturing process will be twice the theoretically calculated minimal volumes. This is partly due to processing energy required for the upkeep or maintenance of the production system and other technical formalities to be maintained for the operation.

We study the situation from well known verifiable data. To produce highly pure Uranium from an ore with 0.05% Uranium, chemical energy expended is given below:

Energy interplayed / involved to manufacture basic chemicals used to extract Uranium from its ore.

In the Uranium extraction process basic chemicals are sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid, hydrogen sulphide, ammonia and sodium carbonate and  tertiary amines. We are first tabulating energy interplayed/ involved to manufacture sulphuric acid which takes the key role to extract Uranium from its ores.


Besides U3O8   Uranium ores  contain  the oxides / salts  of  Silicon, Iron, Molybdenum , Nickel, Aluminium, Calcium, Magnesium, Copper, Cobalt, Manganese, Sodium , Potassium, Fluorine,  Vanadium, Titanium, Carbon,  Sulphur,   Phosphorus,  rare earths and gangues.

 Numerous operations are performed to extract pure Uranium from those ores and those operations need energy intake. Uranium Exporter countries have expended that  energy at source to extract Uranium from national mining reserves in order to supply that Uranium  to France.

 French nuclear reactors in 2004 produced only 342 TWh of electricity from 10,500 tons of Uranium, but the energy required to produce that  Uranium fuel  from available Uranium ore  should be assessed independently.

Therefore, we  demonstrate below the energy expenditure of a real famous Uranium manufacturing unit, Olympic Dam having ores with  0.067 % Uranium content. As of 2013, Olympic Dam was  the second largest uranium-producing mine in the world, having produced 41, 00  to 4,200 tonnes (out of 59,331 tonnes  world production)  in the financial year ending June 2013 .  The only larger producer was  the MacArthur River uranium mine in Canada in that financial year.

Illustrative Example: Olympic Dam
The process of Uranium separation from the low Uranium content ore is tedious, troublesome and  energy consuming.  Uranium is highly toxic and it attacks kidney. It is claimed that it causes birth defects and increases the risk of leukemia. People working in the Uranium mines are exposed to the direct radiation of Uranium. Miners are to inhale Uranium ore dust which accumulates in the lungs and causes lung cancer. Moreover, Uranium emanates Radon. Miners are to breath in air contaminated with Radon which causes lung cancer.

We are tabulating below the energy required to separate 1 gram of Uranium from its now available ores.

Uranium extraction from low Uranium containing ores is done through the following processes now a day [IAA (1993),19-24].

Mining:  Mining first starts with Open Pit mining and  as the  ore depth increases , underground mining become advantageous. Rock fragmentation is generally done through the use of explosives. For loading hydraulic or electrical shovels are used. Then Ores are classified and sorted as per radiometric gradation and transferred for milling. Mining waste are treated and disposed. Dosimetric survey of the mining workers is conducted. Total energy expenditure to operate machineries and to prepare the explosives is not known.

 Crushing, Grinding and Roasting:  Sorted ores are crushed and ground for leaching either with acids or alkalis. Total energy expenditure to operate the machineries is not known. A secondary ball mill works here with a work index of 16KWh/ton [IAA (1993),292].

Leaching: Crushed and ground ore are treated with acids in five mechanically agitated tanks maintained  with 550-600 centigrade by injection of steam.

Solid Liquid Separation:  Energy required is not known
Solvent Extraction Process: Different chemicals are used in this process to separate Uranium. Energy expenditure to prepare those chemicals are not known.

Precipitation with Magnesium Oxide, Ammonia and Hydrogen Peroxide: Energy expenditure to prepare those chemicals are not known. So are the cases for Drying/ Calcining and Product Recovery. Energy expended for waste management is high. But any reliable data is not available.

Water required   in Olympic Dam
In the Olympic Dam after leaching and solid –liquid separation,  Uranium is extracted in three stages using an amine-kerosene solvent in Krebs mixer settlers. The extraction circuit is operated in the organic continuous mode, with solvent recycling to give an O/ A ratio of 1.5-1.7:1 in mixer. In solvent extraction, alamine 336 is used in a kerosene diluents, and the phases move counter currently. The loaded solvents may then be treated to remove impurities. First, cations are removed at pH 1.5 using sulfuric acid and then anions are dealt with using gaseous ammonia. The solvents are then stripped in a countercurrent process using ammonium sulfate solution. Precipitation of (NH4)2U2O7 (ammonium diuranate) is achieved by adding gaseous ammonia to neutralize the solution. The diuranate is then dewatered and roasted to yield U3O8 product, which is the form in which uranium is marketed and exported.

Energy expenditure per gram of Uranium extracted  in most of the operations excepting the following  three viz., crushing, leaching and water treatment  is unknown. Energy expenditure of these  three known processes is  given below.

A secondary mill with work index of 16 KWh /ton is used for crushing.  Equivalent heat energy 41, 143 Kcals / per ton of  the ore that contains 670 grams natural Uranium.


Water treatment
The Olympic Dam uses 35  million liters   Great Artesian Basin water each day making it the largest industrial user of underground water in the southern hemisphere.  This water is pumped along the underground pipe line  from two bore fields  which are located 110 Kms and 200 Kms north of the mine . The salty water is desalinated  before  it is  used.  Contaminated water from the mine is passed through a series of sealed ponds where it evaporates.   Pumping  out of this huge amount of  water  from the Great Artesan Basin is drying the nearby mound springs  for which the aridity of the region is increasing and  in consequence many rare and endemic species in the region are in danger. The mine produces 4200 tons of Uranium per year . [ In 2013 it produced 4200 tons of Uranium][Wiki (2019 b)].


We  may  prepare a chart of energy investment  for  preparation of 1 gram of natural Uranium from  Uranium ores with varied Uranium content  and surplus energy available from I gram of  Uranium burn-up depending on the grade of ores.

Table II. Surplus Energy per gram of Uranium Burn-Up
[Burn –up energy per gram of Uranium 80,000 Kcals; Energy Expenditure for reactor commissioning &decommissioning etc.  per gram of Uranium 38,223 Kcals].

Percentage of Uranium per gram in  the ore

Energy expenditure for preparation of Uranium Kilocalorie per gram

Surplus Energy Kilocalorie per gram of Uranium
= 80,000−[38,223+(2)]

(i)  0.067



(ii) 0.05



(iii) 0.01



(iv) 0.1



(v) 0.2



(vi) 0.4



Figures given in column (3)  of (i) and (iii)  suggest the proposition  (C) :   fuel viability of Uranium prepared from the ores containing 0.067% or more Uranium  may be  positive,  but  that  prepared from   0.01% Uranium Ore is   negative.

Therefore, we may conclude that as per French data Uranium obtained from ores with 0.067%  Uranium  may be  a real fuel. But Uranium produced from  ores with 0.01% Uranium could hardly be considered as a real fuel. Rather that Uranium is false fuel.

Is nuclear power really low-carbon?
There was a time when promoters and defenders of atomic energy would utilize slogans such as, “ Let us go play in the nuclear power park”  [ Gofman and Tampler 1973]. But nowadays it is well known that from mining to nuclear waste management, Uranium and other nuclear materials have always caused radiation hazards. Similarly, the modern or most recent slogan utilized by atomic people is that nuclear electricity is "clean", but this has declining credibility [  Burke  et al.(2011)].

We show below  that to extract 10,500 tonnes of Uranium   from   Uranium ores with 0.067% Uranium Content,  energy  required in ultimate analysis  is equal to 710220 X 108 Kcals .

 The exporter countries have used fossil fuels equivalent to the combustion of  8.9 million tonnes of carbon  that have emitted 32.6 million tonnes of Carbon-di-Oxide in their own countries to produce that Uranium and this saved France from further Carbon-di-Oxide pollution.


Therefore, Exporter Countries have produced  ( 8.9×11/3) million tonnes  =32.6  million tonnes of Carbon dioxides and polluted their own countries with that carbon dioxide which has saved France from further pollution.

To defend nuclear electricity IAAE (2016) argues that GHG emissions from nuclear power plants (NPPs) are negligible. But the essence of this argument  does not seem to be  motivation-free.

Therefore, in terms of fossil fuel expenditure the data analysis suggests the proposition (D): Exporter Countries (if uses 0.067% Uranium ores) have produced   32.6 million tonnes of Carbon dioxides and polluted their own countries with that carbon dioxide which has saved France from further pollution. If 0.01% ores are used, 218.4 million tonnes of carbon-di-oxide would be emitted.

 Now  France  has already expended ( many years before the operating  of the reactor)  and yet to be expended ( for a period of many  years  after shutting down of the reactor) 38, 223 Kcals of energy per gram of Uranium. In that case a further  183 millions tons of Carbon-di-oxide   has been emitted and yet to be emitted  covering a long period   to burn –up yearly 10500 tonnes of Uranium by France   which has not contributed to the present yearly carbon-di-oxide emission scenario  from nuclear energy heading and therefore  has remained hidden.


French nuclear power--not cheap
D. B. Lilienthal, the first Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of USA, commented  that the tapping of energy from nuclear source seems to be a mirage: “The new world of atomic plenty does not exist.”  He openly criticized the USA Government for the huge expenditure of public funds on nuclear electricity, which was more costly than electricity obtained from coal [  Lilienthal (1963)].

Miller mentioned that nuclear taxes have been levied indirectly in USA but do not show up on electric bills, and commented that from an economic standpoint alone, relying on nuclear fuel  as the primary source of national stationary (electric) energy would be economic lunacy [Miller (1976)].  Some notably accused  that nuclear energy and power accounting of USA  being misleading.  They argued that nuclear electricity is supplied at low cost because of large federal grants and subsidies, and most economic estimates of the cost of nuclear power were biased because they do not include the cost of subsidies and other aid programs [ Desaix (1977)].

 Indian studies corroborate the views  of the western critics. S. Bhattacharya & S. Mukherji   were moved to declare that nuclear power is actually a bluff [Bhattacharya & Mukherji (1993)]  whereas Ramana et al  in 2005 were confident enough to say that  “This contradicts numerous claims by the DAE (Indian atomic energy agency) that nuclear power is cheaper than coal-fired thermal power at sites which are 800-1,000 km away from coal mines. Nuclear power plants, therefore, have been and remain a costlier way of trying to address India’s electricity needs, than coal based thermal plants”  [Ramana et al. (2005)].

In a  MIT study  of 2003 the participants  confess that  in deregulated markets, nuclear power is not now cost competitive with coal and natural gas [ MIT (2003)].  Andrew MacKillop  [ McKillop (2011); McKillop (2012a-e)] in a series of articles  has commented that nuclear power is not cheap.

Capital Cost
A  study  shows that the capital costs for generating  renewable energies will steadily decrease  whereas  the same  for nuclear energy will remain  static  for the coming decades [Schröder et al ( 2013)]. A MIT study [MIT (2018), pp. xix- xx] recently echoes, “The cost of new nuclear plants is high”, “ New nuclear plants are not a profitable investment in the United States and Western Europe today. The capital cost of building these plants is too high”.

End of life and dismantling cost
The Cour des Comptes report has shown  that ‘end of life and dismantling costs’ are, not surprisingly the most challenging factor, and its report takes many precautions in its calculating methods and bases. Its data tables suggest that an average likely cost in euros of 2010 value, of 3.8 billion euros 2010 for each  of the 63 main civil reactors of France, will probably be the spending provisions required, starting in the immediate and up to 2025
[CCMR (2012), 269].

Through 2012-2025, if not provided 10-year operating life extensions, at least 11 French reactors will need decommissioning, for a total cost through a time period of up to, or more than 30 years ahead, of around 32 billion euro in euro 2010  [ CCMR (2012), 86].  Other data in the report suggests that prolonging the operating lifetime of these reactors, and other reactors in the French 'fleet' will require the spending of 55 billion euros2010 in the period 2012-2025, for additional safety and maintenance provisions[CCSR (2012), 17].

Government and public sector fund
The Cour des Comptes provided details on as many previous and historical known costs of French nuclear power that it was able to identify. It estimated that French nuclear power, through 1957-2011 received a total of around 228 billion euros2010 from the Public sector and the operators [CCMR (2012), 270 ). It received 38 billion euro2010 in the form of government-funded nuclear R & D [ CCMR (2012), 285] and an initial investment of 96 billion euro2010 [CCMR (2012), 266] in the 58 current reactors that presumably has come from the State.

The Real Economic Costs of Nuclear Electricity
The  Cour des Comptes report  for French nuclear reactors estimated that the  Current Economic Cost  with extension of life expectancy investment (Generation 2, PWR) is  54 Euro2010/MWh  [Percebois  2012] and  Current Economic Cost   without  extension of life expectancy investment (Generation 2, PWR) is 49.5 euro2010/ MWh [ Percebois 2012]; but this was billed by EDF the former state monopoly electricity provider, and present owner of all French nuclear plants at 33.4 euro2010 per MWh [CCSR (2012), 14].  CCSR (2012) went on to state the obvious: power prices must rise soon, and by 15% to start with, in the absence of government subsidy decisions. Several scenarios are shown in the report, mostly in the range of a 33%-50% rise in French bulk electricity prices by as soon as 2017. The Cour des Comptes notes that future nuclear power was unlikely to be cheaper than 80 euro2010 /MWh [ Paris( 2012)].

Maintenance costs for the French nuclear plants are estimated by the Cour des Comptes as more than doubling, from 1.5 billion euro2010-per-year, to 3.7 billion2010 in the next decade, to 2022  [CCMR (2012), 269] with much of the rise "front loaded" to the period 2012-2017. This alone will push power prices up another 10%-15% from current prices, the report estimated [CCSR (2012), 11].

Fuel reprocessing and waste disposal costs, the Cour des Comptes estimates will grow at about 6% per year, at least doubling in the next 12 years. Overall, long term waste stockpiling and safekeeping through the next 10-15 years was estimated as likely to cost 22 billion euros2010 [CCMR (2012), 226], not far behind the early and initial costs of reactor dismantling and Safestor. Recently,  IAAE (2018) remarks that   Nuclear power is not competitive.

 Alternatives to nuclear power - for France
The Cour des Comptes  has avoided  to suggest  on alternative and available non-nuclear generating options ranging from wind power and solar PV, to gas, coal, hydropower, wave power, geothermal and biomass energy [CCMR (2012g)]. In the UK scenario, it seems that electricity generated from off shore wind is cheaper than nuclear electricity [ Paris, (2012)]. In India electricity produced from coal must be much cheaper than electricity produced from metallic Uranium. The Cour des Comptes study shows that France has not much benefited herself in energy sector from her nuclear fuel/ nuclear electricity as she professes.

Schneider et al (2017), experts in the nuclear industry of France find that New renewables beat existing nuclear. Renewable energy auctions achieved record low prices at and below US$30/ MWh in Chile, Mexico, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, and the United States. Average generating costs of amortized nuclear power plants in the U.S. were US$35.5 in 2015.

This analysis suggests the proposition (F): France’s nuclear power is in no way more competitive or of lower cost than many of other options for supplying electric power.

Prospects of Nuclear Energy  in India
France generally  uses Uranium ores with 0.3% Uranium content and  according to the official nuclear specialists one gram of Natural Uranium possesses a burn-up energy of 1,74, 000 Kilocalories (?). Still France’s real cost of 1 unit of electricity is little less than the real cost of 1 unit of energy generated from coal which gives only 8 kilocalories of heat per gram. Therefore,   from reactor building  to disposal, a huge amount of energy and special materials that consumes energy too have been used for these operations  and this  has made the metal fuel practically of no better utility than coal .

In the present decade available Uranium ores for India will not contain Uranium more than 0.01%.  Taking into account  reactor installation,  reactor management,  decommissioning of the reactors,  radioactive disposal and after- Fukushima-Surveillance work,    Energy expenditure per gram of Uranium produced from this ore should be (38,223 +44,408=) 82,631  Kcals ,  whereas the   burn-up energy  of 1gram of Uranium  has been shown to be approximately  80, 000 Kcals.

Most of the ore available in India, Pakistan and Korea rarely contains more than 0.01 % Uranium. Therefore, in any case, these countries in the prevailing scenario should never expect   to gain energy-profit from using Uranium fuel for their energy needs if they use their own Uranium ores or they buy ores of the same grade from Africa.

However, India has taken some initiative to collect Uranium from Niger. Most of the ores from Niger contain 0.047%-0.11% Uranium and India will hardly be able to snatch Niger mines with high grade Uranium   from the tight fists of France and China.

Due to dwindling domestic uranium reserves,[electricity generation from nuclear power in India declined  from 2006 to 2008.

In March 2011 deposits of uranium were discovered in the Tummalapalle belt and in the Bhima basin at Gogi in Karnataka . Uranium contents of the ores of Bhima basin have been described as 10-110 ppm to 308 ppb [Kothari et al (2019)] but those of the Tummalapalle belt have not been stated.

In recent years, India shows increased interest in thorium fuels and fuel cycles because of large deposits of thorium in the form of monazite in beach sands. Energy expenditure to extract Thorium from beach sands will likely not be energy competitive with Uranium ores.

During 2015-2019 Kazakhstan has provided 5,000 tonnes of metallic Uranium [Wiki (2019c)].   In that case the burden of extraction of Uranium lied on Kazakhstan. India is to pay them as per bilateral treaty which does not reflect the energy expenditure which is likely to be very high.

Our Question:
Therefore, we may naturally ask the  nuclear technologists of India:  if France has no better or  little better  utility of Uranium fuel processed from 0.3 % ores than coal ,  how India will get benefit using her  0.01 %  domestic grades of Uranium ores  or  0.1% grades of Uranium ores  imported from Niger?

Acknowledgment: We thank Andrew McKillop (Former Expert-Policy & Programming, DG XVII Energy, European Commission) who edited the economic part of the paper with alteration and much addition.

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(viewed on 22-06-2019)

May 26, 2020

Sankar Hajra

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