Indian firms step up hunt for global nuclear orders

Anil Sasi New Delhi | Updated on November 16, 2017

Heavy duty: The Tarapur Atomic Power Station with two pressurised heavy water reactors, which generate 540 MW each at Tarapur, in Maharashtra. — V.V. Krishnan

Heavy water board to appoint agent for exports; NFC executes turnkey order

Domestic nuclear sector firms are stepping up efforts to cash in on the global demand for specialised nuclear services.

The Heavy Water Board (HWB), which had marked some initial successes in the US and South Korea, has now invited expressions of interest from global agencies that can provide ‘sales representative services' for export of heavy water overseas. The mandate includes exploring the markets in countries such as South Korea, the US, the UK, France and Canada, identifying prospective buyers, facilitating negotiations and even submission of quotations.

Earlier, Hyderabad-based Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) had successfully executed an order received from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) against global competition for manufacture, supply and commissioning of the fuel element end-cap welding unit to Turkish Atomic Energy Authority. India has also readied a reactor prototype targeted at the export market, which has generated interest in Kazakhstan and among some Asean countries.


The HWB had earlier bagged one of its biggest export orders of 11 MT (metric tonnes) of heavy water from South Korean state-owned power firm KHNP two years back. This came on the back of orders for 4,400 kg of nuclear-grade heavy water from US firm Spectra Gases Inc and 4.6 tonnes of high-quality heavy water from US-based Cambridge Laboratories Inc.

According to DAE sources, the HWB — a constituent unit under the Department of Atomic Energy that is primarily responsible for the production of heavy water for the pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) — has established its visibility in the international market by exporting nuclear grade heavy water to South Korea, China and the US against stiff competition. HWB has also developed similar capabilities in areas such as speciality chemicals and other stable isotopes.

Heavy water is a sensitive ingredient used mainly as a moderator and coolant in nuclear power stations as well as research reactors. It contains a higher proportion of the hydrogen isotope deuterium. While India had exported some quantities of heavy water in the late 1990s to South Korea and China, prior to the May 1998 nuclear weapons tests, the exported quantities were quite insignificant and there were no repeat orders. It is only now that the orders are picking up and, more importantly, importers include global nuclear powers such as the US and South Korea.


The fuel element unit order bagged by NFC is being seen as big breakthrough as it came amid stiff global competition. According to DAE sources, there is considerable scope for specialised contracts, especially those called by the Vienna-based IAEA. India has already marked its entry into the nuclear export market, with a new reactor model christened ‘AHWR300-LEU'. The prototype uses low-enriched uranium along with thorium as fuel and is being marketed for countries with small grids. India has held preliminary discussions on the possibility of setting up a nuclear power reactor in Kazakhstan based on Indian reactor design. Several Asian countries are also reported to be eyeing the nuclear option. Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand are among those that have announced plans to tap atomic energy in the future.


Published on December 16, 2011

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