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'Our nuke programmes will gain momentum now'

June 03, 2009 03:27 IST

The Indo-US nuclear deal and India's subsequent entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), ending 34 years of nuclear isolation, has thrown open business opportunities worth an estimated $100 billion by the year 2032.

The country is planning to increase its nuclear power generation by about 60,000 mega watts (Mw) within the next 25 years.

This planned capacity addition is being executed by the state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL). Its head, Chairman and Managing Director SK Jain, tells P B Jayakumar about his plans and expectations. Excerpts:

Do you think India's nuclear energy ambitions will gain momentum, now that the Dr Manmohan Singh-led government is back in power and that, too, without the Left parties which opposed the nuclear deal?

Yes, I hope the new government will be able to continue the good work done in the past few years on nuclear co-operation with the international community. I think our planned programmes will gain momentum with the new government back in power.

In the past few months, a lot of discussions on our civil nuclear programme have taken place. When can we expect some real action?

A lot of action happened in the past and leading Indian suppliers, like Larsen & Toubro (L&T), Bharat Forge and the like, entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with various vendors with a long-term plan. We also held discussions with (global) players like Areva, White Westinghouse, GE and Rosatom.

We expect commercial bids from players such as Areva within a month or two. We are yet to finalise the technology and partners and that process may take about six-eight months, including the techno-commercial bidding. I wish the construction work on some of the units would start by the end of next year.

Which projects have been planned for the immediate future?

Six new units with a capacity of over 3,000 Mw are under various stages of construction. These include the first two units of Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu (2X1000 Mw) with Russian technology, at Rawatbhata station in Rajasthan (2X220 Mw) and one unit at Kaiga in Karnataka.

Our plan is to add 10,000 Mw capacity during the next five-year plan. This may include the next two units of Kudankulam and the initial phase of the nuclear power park planned at Jaithapur in Maharashtra. In the case of the first unit at Kudankulam, coal connection will be completed by July, followed by reactor hot commissioning and fuel loading. The reactor will be ready for operation by the end of the year. The second reactor should take off six months after that.

Fuel availability was an issue for the nuclear reactors of NPCIL. How will you ensure availability of fuel for the new reactors and the existing ones?

Since 2000, we had realised the availability of fuel may be an issue in the future. We had discovered new mining sources in Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh and efforts were started to develop the mines.

Some of the plants under construction were completed early and, in the last few years, we had issues with the Jaduguda and Turamid fuel processing mills in Jharkhand. But, with the opening up of new mines and commissioning of the new processing mill at Turamid, the production-supply mismatch has been resolved and the situation will improve in the future as well.

In the case of new projects, we have conveyed to vendors that the deal will be based on a lifetime fuel supply assurance for reactors (about 60 years) at multiple locations.

You are planning over 10,000 Mw capacity addition. How will you fund the projects?

NPCIL is a cash-rich company with a surplus of over Rs 12,000 crore. This is adequate for the equity portion of our projects. Banks are willing to fund our projects and raising of funds is not an issue for NPCIL.

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