Students of engineering have a wider choice these days with the nuclear energy getting a boost as an industry with greater involvement of the private sector in it. The added choice is nuclear technology as subject of specialization for aspiring engineering students in Indian universities.
With the government planning a five-fold increase in the existing nuclear power capacity by 2020 and a strong interest by global majors to shift manufacturing operations to India, it is estimated that the country would require about 2,000 trained nuclear engineers every year to staff the increased capacity.
Currently, the number of specialist nuclear post-graduates and PhDs from IITs and other universities is only about 50 every year. The supply is limited as only a few IITs — Kanpur and Mumbai — the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and few other universities offer specialized courses. In addition, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL), the sole nuclear power generator in the country, has a capacity to train 250 people annually, while the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) schools around 500-700 people every year.
“The existing situation (for trained nuclear technologists) is stretched,” says L&T board member MV Kotwal. “If BARC (Bhabha Atomic Research Centre) opens its training facilities for non-BARC students also, it could help the industry,” he added. L&T is spearheading the private sector’s thrust into nuclear power generation. The government plans to add 20,000 mw of nuclear power generation capacity by 2020, after India and the US jointly agreed last year to cooperate on civil nuclear energy programme. India also signed a similar agreement with France and Russia.
Additional trained manpower requirement for supporting proposed nuclear power generation projects is in the range of 10,000 to 19,000 people (based on the norm of 1 to 1.4 person per mw), says a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers India report.
“The industry usually hires and trains such professionals in-house,” says Kameswara Rao, Executive Director, PricewaterhouseCoopers India. The attrition in this sector is the lowest at about 3-5 percent, while it is as high as 10-12 percent in other streams of engineering.
Adding to the demand for trained nuclear technologists is the spate of joint ventures that were recently signed by L&T, BHEL, NPCIL and others.