India will invest Rs 2,500 crore in an international nuclear fusion project aimed at providing an alternative to fossil fuels and conventional nuclear power production.
India had formally joined the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project in December 2005 that had United States, the European Union, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea as full partners. The main ITER facility will be built in Cadarache, France; all ITER partners will participate in its construction, research and development.
In India, the Ahmedabad-headquartered Institute for Plasma Research would be carrying out activities related to the international project to be located at Cadarache in southern France. India’s contributions are largely based on the indigenous experience and expertise available in the Indian industry.
"India's joining ITER is a recognition of its scientific and technical capability in fusion energy," Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi said after a meeting of the Union Cabinet.
Besides the Indian participation, the Cabinet also approved constitution of an empowered board by the governing council of the institute in Ahmedabad that would have full financial and administrative autonomy. Officials said the board had been constituted to ensure that red tape did not come in the way of prompt decision-making required for the prestigious international project.
"Considering India's large energy needs in future, our gaining technological capability in fusion energy will be of considerable long-term benefit," Dasmunsi said, hopeful that Indian participation would allow the country to leapfrog in terms of the national technological capability in fusion energy.
India is the fourth largest electricity producing country in the world but the capita energy consumption is half of China’s and one-fourth of the world average. India aspires to reach at least the global average by 2050, a target that would require her to produce about 1300 Giga Watt of electricity, ten times more than the present value of about 130 GW.
About 80 per cent of the current electricity generation comes from fossil fuels, Hydro accounts for about 15 per cent, renewable energy about 2 per cent and nuclear about 3 per cent. India hopes to progressively reduce its dependence on fossil fuels over the next few decades and raise the contribution of conventional nuclear energy to 20-25 per cent by 2050.
Fusion energy is viewed as an advance nuclear technology in this context that provides an opportunity to countries like India to meet their energy needs without contributing to global warming.