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Daily News Analysis


25th April, 2024 Science and Technology


Source: HinduBusinessLine

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  • India is in talks with large domestic companies to invest in the regulated nuclear sector, including promoting clean power.


Current Regulatory Landscape

  • The Atomic Energy Act, 1962, restricts private ownership of nuclear plants, with the central government holding significant control over the production, development, use, and disposal of atomic energy.
  • The Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) is allowed to form joint ventures with other public sector units for project funding, but private and foreign companies face limitations in participating directly in nuclear projects.

Potential for Private Sector Participation

  • While private companies cannot own nuclear plants, they can contribute to related activities such as supplying components and reactors, providing financing, and participating in project development.
  • Private companies may also earn returns on investment through the sale of electricity generated by nuclear plants, while NPCIL may retain operational and maintenance fees.

Focus on Clean Energy and Hydrogen Economy

  • India's push to expand nuclear capacity aligns with its clean energy goals, particularly in the context of hydrogen production.
  • 'Green' hydrogen, produced through electrolysis powered by renewable energy, has gained political support.
  • However, nuclear-powered 'pink' hydrogen offers a promising alternative, as it can produce hydrogen at scale without greenhouse gas emissions.

Path Forward

  • Amending the Atomic Energy Act to facilitate private investments in the nuclear sector is essential to unlock the full potential of pink hydrogen production and other nuclear-related activities.
  • Future collaborations between public and private entities can focus on research, technology transfer, and scaling up hydrogen projects to support India's transition to a net-zero economy.

About Pink Hydrogen

  • Pink hydrogen, also known as purple hydrogen or red hydrogen, is produced through the electrolysis of water using electricity generated from nuclear energy sources.
  • Nuclear-Powered Electrolysis: This variant of hydrogen production utilizes nuclear power plants to provide the electricity needed for electrolysis, resulting in hydrogen production with zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Advantages of Nuclear-Powered Pink Hydrogen:

  • Pink hydrogen, generated through electrolysis powered by nuclear energy, benefits from the steady baseload profile of nuclear power, enabling high capacity factors compared to intermittent renewable sources.
  • While pink hydrogen production may be expensive, the potential for large-scale production and the utilization of high temperatures from nuclear reactors in other industrial processes make it a promising option.
  • High Temperatures for Efficient Electrolysis: The high temperatures generated by nuclear reactors can be utilized to produce steam, which can enhance the efficiency of electrolysis processes or be used in steam methane reforming, thereby increasing the overall efficiency of hydrogen production.

Applications of Pink Hydrogen:

  • Industrial Sectors: Pink hydrogen is a promising replacement for fossil fuels in various industrial sectors, including cement and steel production, where it can serve as both a feedstock and energy source without emitting greenhouse gases.
  • Transportation: Pink hydrogen can also be used as a clean fuel in aviation and heavy transportation, offering a sustainable alternative to conventional fossil fuels and reducing emissions.


  • Safety: While nuclear-powered pink hydrogen production offers numerous benefits, safety considerations regarding nuclear energy and hydrogen storage and transportation must be addressed.
  • Public Perception: Public perception and acceptance of nuclear power and hydrogen technologies may influence the widespread adoption of pink hydrogen.

About Electrolysis

  • Electrolysis is a chemical process that uses an electric current to drive a non-spontaneous chemical reaction.
  • It involves the decomposition of electrolytes (usually aqueous solutions or molten salts) into their constituent ions using an external electric field.

Principles of Electrolysis:

  • Ion Migration: When an electric current is passed through an electrolyte, positively charged ions (cations) migrate towards the negative electrode (cathode), while negatively charged ions (anions) migrate towards the positive electrode (anode).
  • Redox Reactions: At the electrodes, the ions undergo reduction (gain of electrons) or oxidation (loss of electrons), leading to the formation of new substances.

Types of Electrolysis:

  • Aqueous Electrolysis: In this type, water serves as the electrolyte, and the products of electrolysis are hydrogen and oxygen gas.
  • Molten Salt Electrolysis: Here, the electrolyte is a molten salt, and the products depend on the composition of the salt. For example, molten sodium chloride (NaCl) can be electrolyzed to produce sodium metal and chlorine gas.

Applications of Electrolysis:

  • Hydrogen Production: Electrolysis of water is a key method for producing hydrogen gas, which can be used as a clean fuel for various applications, including transportation and industrial processes.
  • Metal Extraction: Electrolysis is used in the extraction of reactive metals, such as aluminum and sodium, from their ores.
  • Electroplating: It is widely used in electroplating processes to coat objects with a thin layer of metal for decorative or functional purposes.
  • Electrorefining: Electrolysis is employed in the purification of metals, such as copper, through electrorefining processes.
  • Electrolytic Cells: Electrolytic cells are used in various industries for chemical synthesis, wastewater treatment, and electrochemical analysis.

Atomic Energy Act, 1962

Historical Background:

  • India's nuclear energy program began in 1948 with the introduction of the Atomic Energy Bill in the Constituent Assembly by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
  • The Atomic Energy Act of 1948 laid the groundwork for state ownership over atomic minerals and promoted research in atomic energy.
  • The Atomic Energy Act, 1962, replaced the 1948 Act and was passed by both houses of Parliament, receiving Presidential assent on September 15, 1962.

Objectives of the Act:

  • The Act aimed to promote the development and utilization of nuclear energy for the welfare of the nation.
  • It addressed potential issues related to the production, development, and disposal of nuclear energy and radioactive substances.

Key Provisions of the Act:

Powers of the Central Government (Sections 3 and 5):

  • The Central Government is authorized to produce, manufacture, use, and dispose of atomic energy and radioactive substances.
  • It can conduct research related to atomic energy and manufacture articles required for atomic energy production.
  • The Act defines "restricted information" related to atomic energy and designates "prohibited areas" for research and development.
  • The Central Government has the authority to manage and control radioactive substances and plants to prevent hazards and ensure public safety.

Regulation and Control of Uranium and Thorium (Sections 4 and 6):

  • Individuals or entities discovering uranium or thorium must notify the Central Government.
  • The Central Government can direct or forbid mining operations related to uranium.
  • Disposal or mining of uranium or thorium requires written permission from the Central Government.

Discovery of Minerals (Section 9):

  • The Central Government can conduct mineral exploration on land as deemed necessary.
  • Landowners must be served with a notice specifying the nature and extent of the work, with provisions for raising objections.
  • Compensation must be paid for any damage or depreciation in land value due to exploration activities.

Control Over Atomic Energy Production (Section 14):

  • The Central Government can make rules to prohibit certain activities related to atomic energy production unless a license is granted.
  • License holders are subject to restrictions on information disclosure and designation of prohibited areas.
  • Employers and related persons must comply with requirements and prohibitions specified by the Act.

Safety Provisions (Section 17):

  • The Central Government can make rules to prevent injuries and health hazards at places where radioactive substances are manufactured, mined, stored, or used.
  • Rules are also established for the transport of radioactive substances to prevent health hazards.

Offences and Penalties (Section 24):

  • Various offences, such as violating conditions of licenses or rules, obstructing authority, or making false statements, are punishable by imprisonment or fines.
  • Offences are categorized based on severity, with corresponding penalties for each category.

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Q.  Amending the Atomic Energy Act to enable private sector participation in the nuclear sector, particularly for the production of pink hydrogen, is crucial for India's clean energy transition. Comment. (250 words)