India has missed its five-yearly nuclear power generation target by 74%, its plans crippled by the protests at Kudankulam and other nuclear plant sites that have left the country's energy security roadmap under a cloud of uncertainty.
The government had set an already modest target of adding 3380 MW of additional nuclear power by 2012 to the country's 3900 MW capacity at the start of the 11th Five Year Plan in 2007.
But failure to convince local people and activists at almost every site handpicked for a nuclear plant has left the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) with only 880 MW to show as nuclear power added over the past five years.
Similar protests over the coming few years could seriously jeopardize India's current energy security strategy, energy economists, government experts and NPCIL officials have cautioned.
"We have to build consensus," said Professor Surendar Kumar, a senior energy economist at Delhi University.
"We need nuclear energy, irrespective of the politics surrounding it."
India needs to add 75,785 MW of power capacity during the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17), and another 93,400 MW during the subsequent five years to regain and maintain a 9 % GDP growth rate, using a basket of energy sources - thermal, hydroelectric, nuclear, wind, solar and other new and renewable sources.
These projections by the Planning Commission are also needed to bring the 400 million Indians currently starved of electricity out of darkness.
"We cannot rely on any one source of power alone. We need to tap all energy sources," Kumar said.
The country currently imports about 40% of its energy requirements. With rising crude oil prices are rising, poor quality domestic coal, and a growing energy demand, nuclear power presents itself as the most attractive energy option, NPCIL officials said, though activists globally point to Japan, France and Germany as examples of countries that are reducing their dependence on nuclear energy.
"It's simple," a senior NPCIL official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"We can kiss our dreams of high single digit growth goodbye without energy security. And nuclear energy will play a greater and greater role in that energy security."
While nuclear energy currently contributes only 2% to the country's energy pie, it will need to contribute about 8% by 2022 under the Commission's roadmap. To achieve this target, India will need to add 18,000 MW of nuclear power to the current capacity between 2017 and 2022.
Each of the new nuclear reactors planned at Jaitapur in Maharashtra, Haripur in West Bengal, Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu, Pati Sonapur in Orissa, Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh, Rawatbhata in Rajasthan, Mithi Virdi and Kakrapar in Gujarat and Fatehabad in Haryana need to come up as scheduled for India to meet this target.
Kudankulam, where two 1000 MW reactors are currently being loaded with fuel rods, was to have offered up its 2000 MW of power by 2012, under the government's plans.
But hit by continuing protests over safety concerns triggered by last year's Fukushima crisis and worries over how the project may affect the livelihood of local fishermen, the nuclear plant is yet to start operating.
Atomic Energy Commission chairman RK Sinha last week said that the plant could start churning out 1000 MW of power by the end of the year, but the government has been unable to meet similar assurances in the past - including in March this year when it said the plant would start in three months.
At most of the other nuclear sites that hold the key to meeting India's power targets and energy security goals, opposition to the project is also either brewing or is already out in the open.
"The government should have addressed these concerns adequately before starting the projects," Kumar said.
"But it's still not too late."
India's energy breakup as of August 31, 2011: (in MW capacity)
Hydro: 38206 (21%)
Thermal: (Coal/Gas/Diesel) 118,611 (66%)
Nuclear: 4,780 (2%)
RES: 20,162 (11%)
RES includes Small Hydro Project (SHP), Biomass Gas (BG),
Biomass Power (BP) Urban and Industrial waste power (U&I), Wind Energy and Solar Power
India's new energy projects over next decade (2012-22) (in MW capacity)
Hydro: 21,204 (9.7%)
Thermal: 127,181 (58.3%)
Nuclear: 20, 800 (9.5%)
RES: 49,000 (22.5%)
Source: Approach paper on power for 12th Five Year Plan, Planning Commission