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NPCIL signs pact with Areva for setting up reactors

February 4, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

From The Hindu Businessline

February 4, 2009

Two European Pressurised Reactor units to come up in Maharashtra.

New Delhi, Feb 4 Marking the end of an over three-decade-long embargo on India’s access to global nuclear technology, state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) on Wednesday inked a pact with the world’s biggest reactor manufacturer, Areva of France, to set up nuclear reactors in the country.

The agreement allows the French state-owned reactor major entry into the growing Indian nuclear market, giving it a first-mover advantage over its US and Japanese rivals.

The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Dr S.K. Jain, Chairman and Managing Director of NPCIL, and Ms Anne Lauvergeon, CEO of Areva.

EPR, Flagship model

According to an NPCIL statement, the pact provides for the “engagement of NPCIL and Areva in discussions for preparing the contract and related details for setting up two to six 1,650 MWe (mega watt electric) new-generation European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) units, including life-time fuel supply for these reactors.”

“This is the first commercial step to end India’s nuclear isolation,” the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Mr Prithviraj Chavan, said at a conference organised to sign the deal. Mr Chavan said two reactors will be built at a proposed nuclear park at Jaitapur, Maharashtra, which could be expanded to include four more.

“Many more sites will be announced by the Government soon, with six to eight reactors in each,” he said, adding there are plans to build more reactors with “friendly countries”, including the US, France and Russia.

The US, which was instrumental in the lifting of the 34-year-old nuclear trade embargo with India, is also pitching in to win a chunk of the nuclear business, while Russia is already constructing the Koodankulam nuclear plant (under a 1988 inter-governmental pact).

According to NPCIL officials, the final contracts for setting up the first two reactors under the pact with Areva are likely to be signed later this year. Areva is promoting its flagship model, the EPR, as it seeks to ride a new wave of global interest in nuclear power generation. Currently, EPR-type reactors are under construction in Finland, China and France.

The Areva chief said talks are on with several Indian companies to manufacture parts for nuclear reactors for the local market and overseas.

Ms Lauvergeon said Areva was committed to supplying fuel for the lifetime of the reactors, which she pegged at about 60 years. She said Areva would meet the fuel requirements through its uranium mines located in various countries, including Australia, Kazakhstan and Niger.

Fuel requirements

Areva had, in December, signed a pact with NPCIL to supply 300 tonnes of uranium for the latter’s reactors. In January, Areva also signed an initial agreement with Bharat Forge Ltd. to manufacture heavy forgings for the power generation sector.

India’s nuclear power generation capacity of 4,120 MW is currently less than 3 per cent of the country’s total power generating capacity of 1,47,402 MW. The Centre aims to scale it up to 60,000 MW by the year 2030.

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