Nuclear Power Corp of India Ltd (NPCIL) and Westinghouse Electric of the US have entered into an early contract to carry out a preliminary safety analysis for the proposed plant at Mithi Virdi in Gujarat.
The study will focus on safety, engineering and the geological aspects of the project site and is expected to be completed in two years. Westinghouse is expected to supply two Advanced Passive (AP) 1,000 reactors initially and subsequently, another four in phases. Both NPCIL and Westinghouse will start talks through video conference and also launch preliminary safety analysis by deputing specific teams.
"Signing of preliminary commercial agreement with Westinghouse is a follow-up action after both had entered into an MoU (memorandum of understanding) in June 2012 to negotiate an early work agreement (EWA) for the construction of up to six AP 1,000 units at the Mithi Virdi. The EWA will include preliminary licensing and site development work,” an NPCIL official told Business Standard, on condition of anonymity. The official said AP 1,000 reactors are licensed and cleared by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Its safety features were also reviewed by the US NRC after the Fukushima nuclear accident took place in March 2011.
According to the official, improvement to the AP 1,000 design post Fukushima accident is the use of safety systems that employ passive means such as gravity, natural circulation, condensation and evaporation, and stored energy, for accident mitigation.
G R Srinivasan, former vice-chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, and director (projects) NPCIL, said: “The agreement is a way forward. It’s an essential step for site preparatory activities leading to site approval. Now, we should take steps to regain the lost time by holding an interface with the regulatory bodies efficiently. We must lay emphasis on strong public acceptance outreach and project planning.''
S K Malhotra, a spokesman for the Department of Atomic Energy, said there was no liability involved in conducting the preliminary safety analysis. It will be discussed during the finalisation of commercial and work contracts. He noted that the agreement paved way for carrying out pre-project analysis, which involves engineering and the project site aspects.
Srinivasan argued the cost consideration for nuclear power plants should not be over-emphasised. ''Cost apprehensions were expressed when the reactors for Tarapur and Rajasthan plants were imported. Now, India has absorbed the pressurised heavy water reactor (PHWR) technology and is making safe and cheapest PHWR in the world. India is planning to absorb technologies and indigenised the equipment manufacturing in future we will be exporters of nuclear equipment and perhaps even nuclear power plants. These considerations far outweigh the initial cost considerations,'' he opined.