Anil Sasi

New Delhi, Aug 7

POLITICAL parties across the spectrum seem to be opposed to any attempts at opening up the nuclear power generation sector to participation by private players, at least in the near future.

While the Left parties, which are supporting the UPA Government have made it clear that they would oppose any attempts to involve private participation, the main Opposition party, the BJP, has said that the sector is a sensitive one but the party is yet to take a stand on the issue.

The ruling Congress has also made it clear that the debate is in very early stages and that the first priority of the Centre would be to strengthen the Government-led initiative.

The debate on private sector participation in the nuclear generation programme was sparked off following Tata Power evincing interest in entering the sector, which is currently the prerogative of state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL).

"The issue is in very early stages. There is no question of a policy (allowing private sector players) at present. Speculation on these issues is futile. First, we have to restart nuclear generation at the Government level so that the Prime Minister's US initiative bears fruition," the Congress Party spokesperson, Mr Abhishek Singhvi, said. The Left parties, on their part, made it very clear that they were opposed to the move. "We do not think it is advisable to allow private players. Nuclear generation is a strategic sector and we will be opposing any move to open up the sector to private players," the CPI's National Secretary, Mr D. Raja, said.

The BJP spokesperson, Mr V.K. Malhotra, said: "The matter of allowing private players into nuclear generation is an extremely sensitive one. We are, however, yet to take a decision on the issue."

Besides Tata Power, other private players are also believed to be keen on entering the sector. At present, NPCIL is the only agency producing nuclear power in the country. National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) is in initial stages of studying to enter the business.

If the recent agreement with the US for the supply of nuclear fuel fructifies, India will be able to step up its civil nuclear programme and production can increase from 10 giga watt to 275 giga watt by 2052.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated August 8, 2005)
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