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Installed Capacity to Rise to 40,000 MWe by 2020

Dr. Anil Kakodkar, Chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and Secretary to the Department of the Atomic Energy (DAE) is upbeat about the country emerging as a a global hub of nuclear energy equipment manufacturing, technology trade and commerce.

A key negotiator of the historic Indo-US civilian nuclear energy agreement, culminating in the lifting of the 34-year-long ban on India by the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group, Dr. Kakodkar says that India’s capability to independently build small sized Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) and thorium-based Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) which will have considerable demand in the future in the developing countries. In an exclusive interview to Asian Nuclear Energy, Asia’s first bimonthly magazine dedicated to nuclear commerce and its Portal, www.asiannuclearenergy.com, Dr. Kakodkar says the lead that India has taken in designing and building FBRs will make the country a global technological leader in this crucial area in the future.  Dr. Kakodkar believes that India’s nuclear power generation programme, which offers immense potential for technology and equipment suppliers from across the globe through joint ventures will result in an additional installed nuclear power capacity of 40,000 MWe by 2020.  He says that India’s capabilities in nuclear energy could also provide enhanced export opportunity for the Indian manufacturing sector to tap emerging markets in nuclear business. Following are excerpts from the interview.

The world is surely moving towards nuclear energy as the best option due to global warming and climate change. What opportunities do you see for India in the emerging scenario?

On short term basis the small size Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) have a potential to be supplied to some developing countries. With nuclear energy likely to become centre stage, Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) are expected to be in considerable demand in future. With India having taken the lead in this crucial area, we could very well be the technological leaders worldwide.  Same thing could happen in the context of thorium systems a little later.

India has developed the thorium-based nuclear fast breeder reactor (FBR) to overcome the shortage of uranium supply. What is its role in India’s future nuclear power generation programme?

Thorium based reactor technology forms the third stage of the three- stage Indian Nuclear Power Programme. It is envisaged that reactors based on thorium will become commercial not only for electricity generation but also for providing high temperature process heat for industries and hydrogen as a clean fuel as substitute for the petroleum based fuels. Taking into consideration the vast thorium resources in the country, it will provide energy for several centuries.

You are planning to scale up India’s installed nuclear power capacity by nearly five times to 20,000 MWe by 2020 from the present 4,120 MWe, which is less than three percent of the country’s total power production. Is the policy frame work in place to enable investment to realize a target this high? What incentives the government is expected to announce in order to boost private participation in this industry?

The present installed nuclear power capacity in India is 4,120 MWe. Out of the 20,000 MWe target mentioned in your question and which is likely to be revised upwards, NPCIL can manage about 10,000 MWe through its own financial resources. Atomic Energy Act in its current form does allow investment by private sector up to the extent of 49 percent.

Will there be any amendments to the Atomic Energy Act with regard to facilitating the private sector’s entry into the closely guarded nuclear power generation field?

As mentioned above, Atomic Energy Act requires nuclear power generation to be done by a government company in which at least 51 percent shares are held by the Central Government. The private sector can however carry out manufacturing of nuclear equipment and other supply chain activities including construction.

The Indo-US nuclear deal has opened the doors to India for carrying out legitimized nuclear commerce. Please enumerate the immediate and long-term spin-offs.

The nuclear commerce in India has always been legitimate. In fact, India is well known for its responsible behavior in conducting its nuclear business. Immediate benefit of the international civil nuclear commerce with other countries will be an additionality of installed nuclear power capacity (40,000 MWe by 2020) over and above that to be achieved through the indigenous three-stage programme.

There are reports suggesting envisaged collaborations worth $150 billion for setting up a total capacity of 10,000 MWe using equipment and materials from US reactors and companies. Do you expect any significant move or development in this regard during the forthcoming visit to India of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton?

While the outlay indicated in the question seems highly inflated, discussions are currently taking place between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. and US vendor companies.

The Economic Survey (2008-09) has suggested allowing Foreign Direct Investment of up to 49 percent in Indian nuclear power plants. Is any policy announcement expected from the government in this regard?

FDI in Indian Nuclear Power Plants is not envisaged.

With multinational companies planning to manufacture nuclear power equipment in India to meet local as well as global demand, do you expect the country to become part of the global supply chain?

Yes, certainly.

Three decades of isolation has also made India realize its capabilities in the nuclear power generation sector. In the light of India’s acceptability by the global nuclear community, what are the prospects of outsourcing of equipment/component manufacture to this country?

We certainly expect enhanced export opportunity for the Indian manufacturing sector in nuclear business following appropriate export control regime.

With global nuclear power firms eyeing partnerships with Indian companies, you have recently advised Indian companies to “exercise due diligence and read the fine print” before signing deals. Do you intend to issue any guidelines to Indian companies, defining their priorities in this regard to enable the country to become a supply chain king, as you said recently?

It is important that the Indian industry maintains their technological competence and freedom to support emerging markets both within the country and outside and in so doing they should not allow themselves to be subjected to extraterritorial application of foreign laws that restrict their participation in the domestic development of the three-stage nuclear power programme which is the key to opening up of very large potential of nuclear power. DAE would continue its engagement with the Indian industry in this regard.

How soon will the project for setting up nuclear parks in different States across the country, each providing for six to eight reactors of 1,000-1,650 MW be ready?

Negotiations are already in progress with vendors from France, Russia and USA for this purpose.

You have ambitious plans of meeting 25 percent of power generation from nuclear plants by 2050. What will be the estimated installed nuclear power generation capacity by then?

We expect around 25 percent of power to be realized by nuclear power plants on the basis of further indigenous development of the 2000 MWe programme by 2020. Another nearly 25 percent is expected to come as an additionality based on initial imports of LWRs/uranium to the extent of 40,000 MWe. Thus the proportion of nuclear power by 2050 could well be around 50 percent (~ 600-700 GWe) if we successfully bring to bear the indigenous capability built as  part of the three-stage Indian nuclear power programme on the initial additionalities through imports.

What is the overall uranium supply scenario and what will be Uranium Corporation of India’s contribution to it in the long run?

UCIL is poised to expand supplies to our expanding nuclear power programme. Further, AMD is aggressively pushing exploration activities by bringing in modern technology.