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India - an emerging Nuclear hub

Global nuclear equipment makers have chalked out ambitious plans to make India their manufacturing base.

twitter-logo Manu Kaushik        Print Edition: March 7, 2010

Imagine India as a global nuclear industry hub supplying critical components, and even technology, to the rest of the world. No longer a nuclear pariah, India is being courted by global energy giants such as France-based Areva SA, Toshiba-Westinghouse Electric Co., GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and Russia's state-owned nuclear company Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation.

They have all quietly firmed up plans in recent months to not just build nuclear plants in India but also develop the country as their manufacturing base for critical components. "Due to the inherent cost advantage, we expect to source 75-80 per cent of the total components from within the country," says Aris Candris, CEO, Toshiba-Westinghouse.

Nuclear power, which accounts for 14 per cent of the world's electricity, is undergoing a revival as fossil-fuel generators are retired and governments seek to curb carbon output. Today, many countries— trying to scale up their nuclear power capacities— are finding it difficult to source critical components due to a demand-supply mismatch.

Experts believe that as the demand for nuclear power increases, India will emerge as a major sourcing base for nuclear equipment and technology. Says Arthur De Montalembert, CMD, Areva India: "India has a large engineering talent pool and manufacturing base. It has already become a recognised sourcing base for a number of industries. We see no reason why the same will not happen for nuclear components."

The Discovery of India

  • Toshiba-Westinghouse ties up with L&T for construction of nuclear power plants and components.
  • Areva's JV with Bharat Forge includes proposal to build a manufacturing facility for heavy forgings in India.
  • GE Hitachi joins hands with L&T and BHEL to manufacture castings and other critical components in India.
  • L&T and Rosatom want to supply equipment and systems to nuclear plants in India and elsewhere.
Still, more groundwork needs to be done to completely unshackle India's nuclear power sector. Lack of clarity in Indian policies for private-sector participation is the main issue which bothers experts. India's Atomic Energy Act 1962 prohibits private-sector players from setting up nuclear power stations. The Act also restricts the nuclear generation business to governmentowned companies.

Then, the US Department of Energy has not issued the mandatory licence to American companies for doing any kind of civilian nuclear trade with India unless there is an "assurance" from New Delhi on nuclear nonproliferation. Despite the pitfalls, the Indo-US nuclear deal is already demonstrating the potential to change the global energy landscape, opening new vistas for global as well as Indian power companies.

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