Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: Former President of India
  Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam    
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17-12-2003 :  Kalavakkam,Chennai

Energy and Water - Our Mission

I am delighted to participate in the inauguration of the 14th annual conference of the Indian nuclear society with the theme "Nuclear Fuel Cycle Technologies: Closing the Nuclear Fuel Cycle". The conference is a part of the Golden jubilee celebration of the Department of Atomic energy which has a tradition of excellence. I greet the organizers, delegates and other dignitaries participating in the conference. I am also very happy that today is also the INS awards function day, when we will be recognizing some of the scientist who have made outstanding contribution to nuclear technology and related areas, particularly I am delighted to see that Prof. C.V. Sundaram whom I have known personally for many decades as an outstanding metallurgist is being given the life time achievement award.

I was thinking what I can share with the delegates who have assembled here in the 14th annual conference. I thought of discussing with you "Energy and Water - Our mission".

Normally, government decision makers look for good suggestions expressed by Science and technology societies. It depends on the quality of the society and typical traditions. I am sure the nuclear society qualifies fully in this regard. Certain new futuristic thoughts for the period twenty to fifty years should always be forecasted, discussed and debated by the society. Government must be altered well in advance on the issues of national importance. For example, the impending energy crisis in developing world in fifty years and in the developed world in hundred years due to the depletion of fossil material of gas and oil is well known. Definitely, alternate source can come only through clean solar power and nuclear power. It is also essential for nuclear society to alert the government on what type of technology is required to reduce the storage area or fast technological disposal of the spent fuel. Latter needs lot of research.

Our Strengths

For India to become a developed nation, we must give thrust to the Nation's core competencies. The GDP has to grow annually by 8 to 10% with consistency over years instead of the current 5%. This year, it is reassuring that our economy in three sectors - agriculture, manufacturing and service are in the ascent phase. If we put united efforts to keep up the momentum we can reach 8% growth rate in about a year.

We should reinforce our gains in the agriculture, power -thermal-hydroelectric and non-conventional energy, ICT, industrial and education sectors, space, nuclear, and defence technologies, chemical, pharmaceutical and infrastructural industries, oil exploration and refining, and more importantly on the critical technologies.

When we are consolidating our strengths in all the areas energy and water are the primary inputs for all sustained developmental activity. For the last five decades we have gained strength in many critical areas including the development of nuclear technologies leading to nuclear energy.

We have achieved a unique status of being best performer in running nuclear power plants with 90% capacity. The criteria for performance assessment have been based on availability, reliability, safe operation and the power plant practices followed.


Vision to Mission

We need to evolve and develop specific integrated missions sector-wise to take the country forward on the path to self-sustaining development. These missions will provide the thrust for the realization of developed India in a time bound manner. They will also provide large scale employment opportunity for the youth through creation of various types of industries and enhancement of the national infrastructure. In this gathering, I would like to discuss two important missions on Energy and Water security.


Power Mission

As you are aware, for meeting the targets of developed India our generating capacity has to get tripled by 2020 from the existing hundred thousand Megawatts of power. This has got to be achieved through three different sources namely hydel capacity, nuclear power and non-conventional energy sources primarily through solar energy. The hydel capacity generated through inter-linking of rivers is expected to contribute nearly 34,000 megawatts of power. Large scale solar energy farms of 800-1000 megawatts capacity hundred in number could contribute around hundred thousand megawatt. The nuclear power plants should have a target of fifty thousand megawatts of power. The balance has to be generated through the conventional thermal plants. The present nuclear power capacity of 14 reactors which is 2720 megawatts is expected to go to 7420 megawatts by 2010 with the completion of nine reactors which are now in progress. Eventually as per present plan BARC is expecting the capacity to be 20,000 megawatts by 2020. Hence, there is a need to plan right from now to increase this capacity by 30000 megawatts.

Our modest uranium resource can support generation of about 15,000 MGW through present generation of Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR) which consumes less one percent of uranium resource. The recycle of PU-239 along with balance uranium in depleted form to second stage Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR) will provide us access of about 130 times more energy potential from our limited uranium reserve. Finally we have to fall back on waste thorium resource (about one third of world's total thorium resource) for our energy security. For this we have to introduce, thorium in the blanket zone of second stage FBR's at an appropriate growth level of installed nuclear capacity. This would enable us to build inventory of U-233 ( from thorium ) for use in the third stage of our nuclear power programme based on yet another type of fast breeder reactor using (Th-U233) MOX fuel in the core.

India possesses pilot scale experience in thorium U-233 fuel cycle including the experience in building research reactor Kamini. However we need to master all the technologies at the front end and the back end of thorium U-233 fuel cycle at a plant scale to address all the technological problems involved in thorium utilization. We should plan to build the first thorium fuel based advance heavy water reactor with a capacity of 1000 MGW immediately.

The next area of concern is water scarcity.


Global crisis of water

Today, with a global population of 6 billion only 3 billion have access to limited or perhaps the satisfactory supply of water. It is estimated that 33% of the world population has no access to sanitation and 17% has no access to safe water. But by 2025 the world population is going to rise to 8 billion but only one billion will have sufficient water. Two billion (25%) will have no access to safe water. Five billion (62%) will have no access to sanitation water. We should collectively find solution to this problem.


Possible solutions

Globally, there are a few solutions to solve water shortage. I would like to give certain suggestions relating to our country, it may be applicable to other countries also. The first solution is by redistribution of water. India has already started this by wide spread promotion of rain water harvesting in both rural and urban areas, but it has to done in mission mode as few states are already doing. In addition we need to put a stop to large scale wastage of water and promote water recycling on compulsory basis in urban and rural areas. It is essential to note that the mansoon rain we get only for three months in most of the places, whereas the consumption is for all 365 days using the ground water. The other major programme which is under the consideration of the Government of India is the interlinking of rivers.


Sea water desalination

Fortunately, we have a resource of 97% of water in the form of oceans and seas. Therefore, second solution would be to create new perennial sources of fresh water by seawater desalination. There are many desalination plants already established.

Global status: World over there are more than 7,500 desalination plants in operation. 60% of them are located in the Middle Eastern countries for the reasons of desert conditions. Fortunately, these nations have the energy potential of gas and oil from fossil materials to power the desalination process. The pattern of the seasonal change and water scarcity necessitate the consideration of desalination of sea water as one of the possible options by many countries. Of course, the cost of drinking water in this process has to be made affordable through technological innovations.

Every year in our country, the drought or flood conditions are experienced damaging the habitat and loss of life. We resort to partial solutions with large amount of expenditure. Presently in India there is certain water management for irrigation purposes which has lead to sufficient food production. The demand for food may get doubled in two decades. Therefore the planning of water through desalination process, interlinking of rivers have to be integrated in the development of additional water resources for irrigation. Research on desalination technology

India attaches importance to research and technological solution for various desalination processes. Fortunately Department of Atomic Energy, DRDO, CSIR and academic institutions are working in different processes for desalination whereas we should recognise that there are already operational plants elsewhere in the world.

Nuclear Desalination Demonstration Project (NDDP) at Kalpakkam has demonstrated the safe and economic production of good quality water by desalination of seawater comprising of 4500 cubic meter per day Multistage Flash (MSF) and 1800 cubic meter per day Reverse Osmosis (RO) plant. The plants can be scaled up to 10 times from the present configuration with out any difficulty.

The design of the hybrid MSF-RO plant to be set up at an existing nuclear power station is another solution. The MSF plant based on long tube design requires lesser energy. The effect on performance of MSF plant due to higher seawater intake temperature is marginal. The preheat RO system part of the hybrid plant uses reject cooling seawater from MSF plant. This allows lower pressure operation, resulting in energy saving. The two qualities of water produced are usable for the power station as well as for drinking purposes with appropriate blending. The post treatment is also simplified due to blending of the products from MSF and RO plants.

Another approach is the use of dual-purpose plants, where the desalination plant is connected to an electricity plant, utilising the waste heat from the electricity plants run by nuclear energy. I understand, under favourable conditions, dual-purpose plants decrease the cost of desalinated water below those of conventional desalination methods, primarily through energy conservation.


Desalination process

Recently I visited the Umm Al Nar desalination plant in Abu Dhabi, which produces nearly 500 million litres of fresh water per day using the MSF (Multi Stage Flash) process. This one plant has totally transformed the ecology of the desert, and is an example of how large scale water supplies may be obtained from the oceans. In this process the sea water has to be flashed into steam by heat addition at low pressure. When the steam is condensed to produce fresh water, part of the energy is used to run steam turbines to produce electricity to feed back to the grid. However, even with this energy recovery, no major breakthrough in technology has acquired since then to reduce the specific desalination energy to values below 10-15 units per cubic meter of fresh water. The gulf region produces aggregated quantity of 4 billion liters of fresh water consuming 1.5 Giga Watts of electricity burning enormous amounts oil and gas in the process. This process may be the cost effective solution for gulf region due to abundant availability of gas and oil for few decades to come.

But other regions like India need new processes and new solution like use reverse osmosis using solar energy and MSF using nuclear energy. It is essential to setup the desalination plants next to the nuclear power stations to reuse the waste energy effectively.


Water and Energy through consortium

Technologies in sea water desalination using nuclear energy through Reverse Osmosis and MSF are already demonstrated by BARC. It is imperative that the water requirements of many of the states need to be addressed immediately though sea water desalination process. BARC in collaboration with the industries like BHEL, NPC should provide solutions to the state governments. I suggest forming of a consortium between BARC, BHEL, NPC, private sector institutions and the concerned State and Central governments to tackle this issue in a mission mode.



The critical problem our planet will encounter in the next few decades is the shortage of water and energy. But, many of the nations are preoccupied either in war or finding solution to terrorism. It is essential; as far as India is concerned that we must have a water and energy management schemes that unfurls our vision for next two decades. Integrating desalination of sea water coupled with solar energy generation and nuclear energy plants would form the centre-stage of our planning. In the mean time wherever nuclear power plants have been planned it is essential to have a desalination plants as part of the power plant complex. Also international initiatives and cooperation may be considered in the energy and water sector wherever required.

I wish the Conference all success.




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