Experts hope with India and the US reaching an agreement on operationalising a civil nuclear deal between the two countries, work on the 6,600-Mw Mithi Virdi and 9,564-Mw Kowada nuclear power projects will be expedited. In June 2012, state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) had entered into an early-works deal with US-based Westinghouse to supply six AP1000 reactors of 1,100 Mw each for the Mithi Virdi project in Gujarat. In September 2013, NPCIL and Westinghouse signed a preliminary commercial contract, along with an agreement to carry out a two-year preliminary safety analysis for the project. NPCIL is yet to sign a similar agreement with GE-Hitachi for six reactors of 1,594 Mw each for the Kowada project in Andhra Pradesh, though the site is ready and a preliminary environmental assessment is being carried out.
Speaking to Business Standard, NPCIL executive director N Nagaich said, “Pre-project activities, including land acquisition, an environment clearance from the Union environment ministry, geo-technical examination, including studies of soil and sub-soil, and negotiations on the project proposals are in progress.” He added the fact that India and the US had signed a deal to operationalise the civil nuclear agreement was a huge positive. S K Jain, former chairman and managing director of NPCIL, said most difficulties seemed to be have been ironed out, paving the way for setting up the Mithi Virdi and Kowada projects. “Simultaneously, India’s indigenous programme, especially the development of 14 reactors of 700 Mw each, will also get a boost. The move to set up an insurance pool will help address concerns raised by the Indian suppliers,” he said. G R Srinivasan, former vice-chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and former director (projects) of NPCIL, said now, discussions might focus on the cost, the per-unit rate and the project management of the Mithi Virdi and Kowada projects. “Everything will be done under the framework of the 123 agreement as far as the US is concerned, according to Indian laws, including the civil nuclear liability law,” he said. S Thakur, former NPCIL executive director, said the completion of pre-project activities and NPCIL’s commercial agreements with Westinghouse and GE-Hitachi should be pursued at “Namo” speed, in the wake of the government signing administrative arrangements, resolving liability issues and closing the nuclear cooperation agreement with Japan.