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Slowdown not to affect India's nuclear plans

BS Reporter  |  Mumbai 

India's nuclear power programme is unlikely to be affected by global slowdown since Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) -- the sole company currently authorised to set up nuclear plants in the country -- is cash-rich.

NPCIL Chairman and Managing Directors SK Jain said that the company had cash reserves of over $2.75 billion to fund the equity portion of the projects which will be based on a debt equity ratio of 70:30.

India envisages a capacity of 60,000 mega watt (Mw) by 2032 against current capacity of 4,120 Mw.

"We can mobilise the debt portion through domestic lending and external commercial borrowings. Two domestic agencies also have accorded AAA credit rating for us," Jain  said, while attending a meet to discuss UK-India collaborations in nuclear sector organised by the UK Trade & Investment.

Currently, the country has 17 reactors producing 4,120 Mw of energy and another 3160 Mw is under construction.

According to the 11th five year plan targets, India plans to add 5,600 Mw (8X700 Mw) pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWR), 1,500 Mw (3X500 Mw) fast breeder reactors (FBRs), 300 Mw (1X300 Mw) advanced heavy water (thorium) AHWRs and 10,000 Mw (10X1000 Mw) light water reactors.

The plans are to increase nuclear energy's share in the overall energy basket from the current 4.1 per cent of total domestic energy production to 9 per cent within the next 25 years.

He said the opportunity would be huge for the supplier industry. India needs 1,600 tonnes of uranium per year. Four likely vendors such as GE Hitachi and Toshiba Westighouse of US, Areva of France and Rostam of Russia will provide light water reactors of 1,000 Mw and above, which will come up in 4-6 nuclear parks with about 6-8 reactors in a single location, with each of them having the same technology.

Private sector can participate through supply chain for major equipment, regular spare sourcing and specialised post-installation support. Construction will begin at 4-5 sites simultaneously within a few years.

"We have conveyed to the vendors the deal will be based on life-time fuel supply assurance for reactors (about 60 years), which they can execute through a consortium or through other arrangements," said Jain.

Challenges in implementing the programme include sourcing of major equipment and forgings as the Indian industry lacks adequate capacity to meet demand. Developing requisite skilled manpower, development of a safety culture and security, ways to optimise the new builds and absence of experience in new designs and cost-competitive supply of power to the grid.

He said the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the proposed joint venture with NTPC would be signed within two months.

Commenting on allowing private sector participation, he said currently only NPCIL and Bhavini are mandated to set up nuclear reactors in India.

Other public sector units can enter the sector as a minority shareholder.

Private sector also can join as a JV partner with minority holding, but that requires approval from the government.

First Published: Wed, January 21 2009. 20:36 IST