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India Inc's nuclear energy dreams get a fillip

Global nuclear specialists such as the Russian nuclear major Rosatom, France's EDF and India's sole commercial nuclear company NPCIL have started negotiations to rope in joint venture partners and vendors for the huge capacity addition.

twitter-logo PB Jayakumar        Last Updated: November 29, 2017  | 15:57 IST
India Inc's nuclear energy dreams get a fillip

After almost a decade of lull, there's renewed enthusiasm and hype among the Indian corporate sector owing to the huge capacity additions in nuclear energy. Global nuclear specialists such as the Russian nuclear major Rosatom, France's EDF and India's sole commercial nuclear company, the public sector Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL), have started negotiations to rope in joint venture partners and vendors for the huge capacity addition, say sources.

Besides, the government would soon resolve issues related to progress of the 9,900-MW Jaitapur nuclear power plant, the largest nuclear power park to come up in coastal Maharashtra. "We are in discussions with the French on the same, and you may hear some positive announcements soon," R.B. Grover, Homi Bhabha Chair and member Atomic Energy Commission, told Business Today on the sidelines of UBM India's ninth edition of India Nuclear Energy (INE) summit held last week.

In May, the Union Cabinet had approved fast-tracking India's domestic nuclear power programme by giving approval for construction of 10 units of India's indigenous Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR) with a total installed capacity of 7,000 MW. These Indian made reactors are likely to translate to manufacturing orders of close to Rs 70,000 crore and generate more than 33,400 jobs in direct and indirect employment. India has a current installed nuclear power capacity of 6,780 MW from 22 operational plants. Another 6,700 MWs of nuclear power is expected to come on-stream by 2021-22 through projects currently under construction. India's plan is to have 63,000 MW of nuclear capacity by 2032.

Sources say that the 10 PHWRs of 700-MW each are likely to come up at Chutka in Madhya Pradesh (2), Mahi Banswara in Rajasthan (4), Gorakhpur in UP (2) and Kaiga in Karnataka (2). These PHWRs are estimated to cost around Rs 1,05,000 crore. Construction at Chutka, the first of these ten, is expected to start within two years.

"Now fuel availability is not an issue for our capacity addition plans," Grover said, while commenting on the huge capacity addition plans.

Between 2005 and 2012, many Indian corporates like L&T, Reliance Power and Godrej had invested in creating manpower and infrastructure capacities eyeing the nuclear opportunity. Then the Indian government was planning to have four to five large nuclear parks in coastal areas. Since Japan's Fukushima nuclear tragedy in 2011, which was followed by an earthquake and tsunami, the country has been witnessing stiff opposition against nuclear power plants. Local resistance against land acquisition, like at Jaitapur, was also delaying projects. Meanwhile, Areva, entrusted with setting up the Jaitapur plant, got into near bankruptcy, and the French energy major EDF took over the reactor unit. Following that, EDF was forced to make a fresh proposal to NPCIL last year; negotiations are still going on.

"We hope to resolve the liability and cost issues soon. It is natural to have such issues for any project of this gigantic size," said Alexandre Zielgler, Ambassador of France to India, at the nuclear conference.   

EDF is to build six reactors, each with a capacity of 1,650 MW, using European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) technology, which is yet to be commissioned anywhere in the world. NPCIL and EDF are expected to sign the General Framework Agreement (GFA) by the end of the year, say sources.

Following the Indo-US nuclear deal in 2008, the US-based Westinghouse was supposed to get a $20 billion contract for six Westinghouse Electric AP-1000 nuclear reactors to be built in Andhra Pradesh. However, Westinghouse, a unit of Japan's Toshiba Corp, filed for bankruptcy in March. Now the Indian government is re-negotiating the deal with Westinghouse as it will remain as a design and consultant partner. Plans are to entrust manufacturing to Indian companies, which will be a huge business opportunity for them.

Apart from this, the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu, with two 1,000-MW units commissioned, is likely to see one 1,000-MW nuclear power unit each getting commissioned every year between 2023 and 2026. Last week, NPCIL opened bids for the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) order for the third and fourth units and Reliance Infra was the lowest bidder for the Rs 1,000-crore order, beating L&T and Tata Projects.

Nikita Mazien, Vice President of Rosatom, says his company is open for joint ventures with Indian partners and the JVs can look at projects in surrounding countries as well.

Kaustubh Shukla, COO, Industrial Products division of Godrej & Boyce, urges the industry to tread with caution. "It is true that many of us have invested a lot in nuclear, and were waiting for many years, but we need to be cautious while bidding," he says.

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