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Nuclear Power short-lists 4 suppliers for reactors

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A file picture of one of the reactors at Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu.–
A file picture of one of the reactors at Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu.–

Anil Sasi

New Delhi, Aug. 17 With the prospects of India’s access to global nuclear reactor technology brightening, Westinghouse Electric Company (AP1000 series of reactors), GE-Hitachi (ABWR reactor series) , Areva (1,000 MW European pressurised reactors) and the Russia’s atomic energy agency Rosatom (VVER 1,000 reactors) are among the frontrunners for new projects planned across the country.

State-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) – the monopoly nuclear power generator – has tentatively short-listed these four major reactor manufacturers based on “suitability” of technical parameters for placement of orders that will form the first phase of the Centre’s plan to build 40,000 MW of nuclear capacity by 2020, Government sources indicated.

Nuke Parks

Once nuclear trade commences, NPCIL hopes to set up “Nuclear Parks” or reactor clusters, for which four coastal sites have been identified across Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal.

These “parks” are being envisaged with a capacity of housing up to eight reactors of 1,000 MW each at a single location. The orders would initially be placed for around two reactors of 1,000 MW at each of the locations, following which more reactors could be added .

“The model would be on the lines of the Koodankulam project, where two 1,000 MW reactors were initially set up and subsequently the site is being expanded to accommodate more reactors,” an official said.

Officials hinted at the preference for Russian and French reactor technology since the Indian Government has already been engaging with them.

Russian VVER reactors are already being deployed at Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu, while the Jaitapur site in Maharashtra was earmarked by the DAE for possible project collaboration with the French Government.

NSG meeting

With the India-specific safeguards agreement already cleared by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a special session of the Nuclear Suppliers Group – the 45-member nation cartel that controls nuclear commerce – to begin discussing the US-India deal is scheduled for August 21, with at least two sessions likely to be needed to reach an agreement on an exemption for India.

Indian utilities such as NPCIL would technically be in a position to engage with global suppliers once the NSG exemption is through, though the Indo-US deal would still be required to go back for an up-down vote at the US Congress.

A senior Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) official told Business Line that the country would like to keep its options open on the choice of reactor types at present, with practically all global reactor manufacturers making a beeline for India in the light of the opportunities that could open up.

“Cost specifications and safety parameters would form the two foremost parameters for the selection of the foreign equipment suppliers for future projects,” the official said. Foreign reactor suppliers are, however, unlikely to be allowed to own equity in the projects in the first phase, officials said.

To double capacity

0 India has 17 nuclear power plants with a total installed capacity of 4,120 MW in operation. Six additional units, with a capacity of 3,160 MW, are under various stages of construction.

If nuclear trade with global players opens up, the Centre, which was originally targeting 20,000 MW of nuclear power by 2020, hopes to double nuclear capacity addition to achieve an installed capacity of 40,000 MW over the next 12 years.

According to US-India Business Council estimates, at least $100 billion (about Rs 400,000 crore) worth of investment will be needed to develop nuclear energy in India over the next 20 years.

Related Stories:
Why the nuclear deal is important — Reflections on the power mix
India to push ahead with nuke deal amid strict deadline

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated August 18, 2008)
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