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Q&A: Shashikant Dharne, Nuclear Power Corporation of India

February 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Sanjay Jog  interviews Shashikant Dharne of NPCIL in Business Standard

Jaitapur nuclear project: No adverse impact on health, environment
Feb 15, 2011

Development of 10,000 MW Jaitapur power project in Maharashtra is being debated especially on issues of application of six European pressurised reactors and impact on environment due to radiation. In an interview with Sanjay Jog, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd’s joint director Shashikant Dharne explains company’s stand.

Critics are questioning deployment of 6 European pressurised reactors (EPRs) on the ground that they are not tested and proven. They allege that these reactors are being dumped by Areva. What is Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited’s (NPCIL) views?

The EPR reactors proposed to be deployed at Jaitapur are of the evolutionary design. They have been evolved from the N4 and KONVOI reactors successfully in France and Germany. The current proven versions of these reactors have the capacity of up to 1500 MW. The EPR combines the salient design and safety features of N4 and KONVOI as well as has enhanced features to strengthen the safety to unparalleled levels, which are capable to successfully withstand the natural as well as human-induced hazards. The enhanced safety features considered in the design of EPRs is one of the deciding factors in the choice of these reactors.

What will be the life of these reactors?
The life of these reactors is designed to be 60 years. At the end of life, like the practice for any other nuclear plant in the world, the critical components of plants are assessed for their health and based on this assessment, the regulatory bodies take the appropriate decision regarding the extension of the life of the plant.

What will be radiation from the upcoming project? Villagers fear that radiation will be lead to impotency, outbreak of cancer and severely damage ecology. What is your Rcomment?
All the flora and fauna of the earth, including of course the human beings is continuously bathing in the natural radiation due to various radioactive elements in the earth and in the atmosphere as well as the contribution from the outer space. It varies from place to place depending on various components like the minerals in the surrounding area, height from the sea level, etc. The average dose per year from natural radiation is about 2,400 microSievert.

The AERB has stipulated that the limit of dose to public at the fence boundary of a nuclear establishment irrespective of the number of plants and/or other storage/processing facilities is 1000 microSievert. The past record of the operating nuclear indicates that the dose from the nuclear power plants to the public is much below this stipulated limit (ranging from 2-36 microSievert).

Hence, this negligible increase in the dose due to nuclear power plant does not pose any additional hazard to the public around the plant. The same has been borne out by the studies conducted by Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai, at Tarapur.

Where the nuclear waste will be disposed off?
The nuclear power plant during its normal operation does not produce high-level nuclear waste unlike a reprocessing plant. There is no reprocessing plant currently envisaged at Jaitapur.

The low and medium level solid waste generated during the operation of the nuclear power plant is minimised in volume and stored in SS containers in concrete vaults with a continuous surveillance till it decays to the safe level.

What is NPCIL’s plan to comply with 35 conditions laid down by MoEF while giving environment clearance for the project?
NPCIL will strictly comply with all the 35 conditions stipulated by MoEF while giving environmental clearance.

What is the present state of negotiations with Areva? What efforts are being made to reduce capital cost from Rs 15-19 crore to Rs 9 crore and also to make the per unit tariff competitive?
India is a world recognised power in the nuclear field. It has a unique end-to-end capability in the nuclear field whether it is back end of the fuel cycle or front end or any other field like design, procurement, erection, commissioning, operation and maintenance of the nuclear plants. With this strength combined with highly developed Indian industry capable of delivering the goods the efforts are on to reduce the cost of the plants and make the electricity available at the competitive rates.

Have your increased the per acre compensation to Rs 10 lakh? What is the total rehabilitation package?
The government of Maharashtra has constituted a committee to look into this matter and NPCIL will go along with its decision.

The government of Maharashtra and NPCIL have signed the relief & rehabilitation (R&R) package to give adequate compensation to all the affected persons. NPCIL would provide Rs 2 crore per village to upgrade existing civil amenities & facilities, make provision of Rs 25 lakh per year per village to maintain civil amenities.

It would provide employment to one person from each project affected families in group C&D (semi-skilled) subject to eligibility and availability of vacancy. If he or she does not want to get employed, they would get a lump sum cash compensation of Rs 5 lakh in lieu of the employment.

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‘Uranium not needed for 2030’

February 6, 2011 Leave a comment

From the Times of India

February 6, 2011

ALLAHABAD: The nuclear treaty was needed because the uranium deposits in the country would not last beyond 2020, but now we would have many new nuclear reactors, by the cooperation of the French and Russian. This will increase the nuclear power generation by over 10 times as compared to the present level, said Prof JP Mittal from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai.

Prof Mittal was a visit to the Allahabad University on Saturday. He was the chief guest in a seminar organised by the chemistry department.

Speaking to TOI, he said, “After 2030 India would not need any uranium as the nuclear fuel as by then it would be able to use thorium as the nuclear fuel, research for which is being carried on for the past 25 years. The deal would help the country bridge the gap of uranium, needed for nuclear power generation after 2020.” He added that since India has the biggest Thorium deposits in the black sands of Kerala coast, we would become self-reliant in producing nuclear power.

How could you match the GDP growth, as predicted by the government, without having the needed power and if the country goes with thermal energy, it will again result in increasing the carbon emission, Prof Mittal said.

About the recent controversy regarding the Jaitapur nuclear power project in Maharashtra, Prof Mittal said nuclear power plants are located at least 200 miles away from the coal mines and the potential areas are not just picked up randomly. There is a site selection committee which suggests names of a place after taking into account various factors like flora and fauna, number of people that would be displaced, etc. The same was done in terms of Jaitapur, which is a new proposed 9900 MW power project of Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) at Madban village of Ratnagiri district where six nuclear reactors would come up with the help of France. It will be the largest nuclear power generating station in the world by net electrical power rating once completed, he added.

Analytical development model could have avoided Jaitapur issue

February 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Anilk Kakodkar in Times of India (Pune edition)

Feb 5, 2011

PUNE: Former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission Anil Kakodkar on Friday said the controversy regarding the Jaitapur nuclear power project could have been avoided if the country had the analytical development model, where a group of experts from various walks of life forecast the impact of any major project and suggest precautionary measures to minimise problems.

“While working on the proposed Jaitapur plant, I could not form such a group despite repeated efforts. This would have helped prevent the controversy we are witnessing now. However, I am still hopeful of forming such a group, which is the need of the hour”, Kakodkar said while speaking on ‘Development and Environment’ at the launch of a magazine ‘Change for Better’.

“An analytical development model would comprise among others social scientists, economists and environmentalists, who would prepare a detailed impact report according to their respective disciplines. It would offer a detailed report of the project and forecast the changes it would bring to the region. At present, the discussion about the project resembles the tale of an elephant and six blind men, where everybody has some input but nobody is aware of the larger and overall picture.”

Development and environment are not different compartment; we need to think of the both together, he said. Commenting on the proposed Jaitapur project, he said, “The radiation from one kilogram of uranium ore utilisation is less than the radiation from one kilogram of coal combustion. But the energy received from the former source is much higher than that from the latter. Though this has been proved, this power project is still being criticised.”

Kakodkar underlined the increasing need of power in the coming years, as the aspirations and purchasing power of people grows. Such projects should be welcomed in view of the future requirements and need for power in the country for various purposes, he said.

A Non Political View on Jaitapur Nuclear Project

December 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Sudhinder Thakur in the NPCIL website


Debate over N plant in Jaitapur Turns Political – A Non Political View
(Sudhinder Thakur, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited) <sthakur@npcil.co.in>

“TIMES NOW” TV channel has been carrying a story on Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant. This article puts some misinformation in a non-political perspective.

Jaitapur plant is ten times Chernobyl – a safety concern

The unit size of power plants have, like elsewhere in world, shown  increasing trend. This is simple economics on account of economy of scale. The most important resource, land square km per MW, falls with increasing size. The land requirement for 4000 MW Ultra Mega Power Project is about 3000 acres giving 0.75 acre/ MW. Nuclear plant parks 0.18 acre/ MW. Coal based plants of 20-40 MW built  some 40 years ago are being shut down because the current tariff at about Rs. 4/ kWh is no longer viable. Tarapur Nuclear Plant units 1&2, also in service since 1969, current tariff is less than one Rs. / KWh.

The unit size of coal thermal plants has increased from some tens of MW to 660 MW and 800 MW; discussions are on for setting up 1000 MW thermal plants.  Same has been the case for nuclear plants which have seen a global progression from 220/500/1000/1300/1650 MW. The effort to built and operate a power plant does not increase linearly with unit size giving economy of scale for large plants for base load generation.

The Chernobyl accident happened more than two decades ago. The accident resulted in graphite burning and the reactor had no containment to prevent release of radioactivity in the event of an accident. Since then, considerable efforts have resulted in  significant improvement in the nuclear safety world over. The safety record of life cycle electricity generation in 30 years (1969-2000 Source OECD) is by an order of magnitude better than of thermal.0.597 fatalities per GWh of electricity generation for coal technology vs 0.048 for nuclear. The contemporary designs of nuclear power reactors have highest in-built standard of safety. There are many sites world over having multiple reactors and the total nuclear power capacity at a park has no relation
with safety which has to be ensured for each of the reactors separately.

EIA report does not address design/ safety concerns

While the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Study focused on the environmental aspects of the proposed nuclear power plant, the design and safety evaluation is the responsibility of the Atomic  Energy Regulatory Board (AERB). Clearances of the Ministry of Environment & Forest from environmental angle and AERB from safety angle are two statutory clearances which a nuclear power project has to obtain. The design/ features of the project in the EIA report, like environmental aspects in AERB safety evaluation, are thus to be considered as for- the- sake- of –completeness only.

Temperature rise is as high as 5 deg

Energy consumption in the form of electricity is an inherently inefficient process but needs to be tolerated in  view of ease of transmission and cleanliness at the end use. Much to our disliking,  the energy to be put in the atmosphere, be it sea or air route is about twice the energy converted to electricity.  This is true for all power plants not only nuclear. Coastal locations
are preferred in view of availability of abundant cooling water. This considerably saves the consumptive use of water at in-land locations. Though direct cooling water requirement is about ten times the water requirement  in a closed loop, direct cooling is preferred because of low consumptive use of water another valuable resource.

MoE&F own stipulation in the Guidance Manual for nuclear plants is 7 degrees rise in temperature of cooling water. MoE&F have  in their clearance for the project further restricted the temperature rise to 5 degrees. Detailed scientific studies have been conducted on thermo ecological aspects of discharge dispersion with a view to restrict the temperature rise within 5 deg.

Expert Panel views not considered

As regards the timings of clearance of the project, it could have been only be before, during or after the visit of President of France. The timing has no sensitivity. Significant in this regard is  the fact that all activities prior to the clearance have been completed according to the timelines. The application to MoE&F after EIA Report for which TORs were approved in May 2009, public
hearing and inputs from expert organization was made much earlier and reports on bypassing the Expert Panel on Western Ghats constituted by MoE&F in March 2010 in a section of press are incorrect. The conditions on the clearance include activities to be completed in next 12 months, bio diversity conservation plan around the site, a robust monitoring mechanism and a comprehensive
environmental management plan assessment on putting  first two units on line with a view to feed into additional safeguards for remaining four units.

Strategic Considerations

The spent fuel after reprocessing in  a central reprocessing facility will be used only in the civilian nuclear power programme. India has abundant resources of thorium and the route for thorium utilization is through three stage programme conceived decades ago. There are possibilities of using spent fuel after reprocessing in fast reactors in  the civilian programme  at a future date;
however the suggestion to use in the strategic programme is misleading.

While we appreciate the Times Now slogan, let the countrymen & women of India decide, the facts need to be made known first.

NPCIL Response to Outlook article

December 23, 2010 Leave a comment

N Nagaich of NPCIL replies to an Outlook magazine article of Dec, 2010

Link to copy on NPCIL website

Link to local copy


MOEF Environmental Clearance for Jaitapur Nuclear Plant

November 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Environmental Clearance for JNPP by MOEF in Nov 2009 (pdf)

link to copy on NPCIL website,

link to local copy

Unleashing India’s nuclear potential

February 10, 2009 Leave a comment

Bhaskar Balakrishnan in The Hindu Businessline

February 10, 2009

Major players in India and abroad are gearing up for participation in the nuclear power sector. The Government needs to carry out major policy reforms in consultation with the industry and other stakeholders to harness the full potential after the end of India’s nuclear isolation, says BHASKAR BALAKRISHNAN.

The signing of the India specific safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the MoUs concluded between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and Areva of France on uranium supply, and the construction of two advanced reactors are a welcome start to the momentous Indo-US nuclear deal and the NSG waiver.

NPCIL has secured the badly-needed fuel for its power plants. Major players in India and outside are gearing up for participation in India’s nuclear power sector, which seems set for massive growth in the future. But more steps are needed to unleash the tiger of the Indian nuclear industry.

The new upgraded target of 63 GW of nuclear power by 2032 from the present 4 GW represents an ambitious undertaking. The present total electricity production is 147 GW, with heavy transmission and distribution losses depriving the economy of its full value. The previous modest target of 20 GW by 2020 was raised to more ambitious levels following the end of India’s nuclear isolation.

China, in comparison, has 11 operating power reactors of 9 GW capacity (2 per cent share of total power generation) and plans to raise this to 70 GW (5 per cent share) by 2020 and further to 250 GW (16 per cent share) by 2030. Plants now under construction represent additional 27 GW capacity. China plans to open up the sector to foreign investment with controlling interest to remain in government hands. Russia has also indicated it will open up this sector to domestic and private investors.
European Pressurised Reactor

The MoU just inked is for Areva’s latest third-generation European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) of 1,650 MW capacity, eight times larger than NPCIL’s current range of 220 MW units.

Its features include increased safety and economic competitiveness; use of 5 per cent enriched uranium oxide fuel, optionally with up to 50 per cent mixed uranium plutonium oxide fuel; four independent emergency cooling systems, each capable of cooling down the reactor after shutdown; a two-layer concrete wall with total thickness 2.6 metres designed to withstand impact by airplanes and internal overpressure; and a service life of 60 years significantly reducing costs of decommissioning.

The first EPR, being built by Areva-Siemens consortium in Olikuoto, Finland, since 2005 has faced technical and other problems resulting in cost- and time-overruns. Completion is expected by 2012 with a three-year-delay and the cost has increased by over 25 per cent resulting in the case going into arbitration. The second Areva EPR is being constructed in Flamanville, France, since 2007, at a project cost of €3.3 billion, and is expected to be completed in 2012, despite anti-nuclear protests.

In late 2007, a major $12 billion contract was signed for the construction of two EPRs at Taishan, Guangdong province, China, as well as for fuel supplies of 600 tonnes of uranium per annum from start-up in 2014 to2026. This deal also includes EDF of France financing 30 per cent of the project in return for an equity stake.
Challenges for NPCIL

The proposed mega nuclear power complex at Jaitapur is planned to be implemented by NPCIL and Areva. Two EPRs of 1,650 MW each are envisaged in Phase I, with the addition of four EPRs at a later stage. Some 940 hectares of land are being acquired for the project near the small fishing hamlet of Madban in Rajapur taluk of Ratnagiri district.

A nuclear reactor of the type to be built by Areva (the latest generation European Pressurised Reactor of 1,650 MW capacity) is likely to cost about $5 billion and take around six years to build, from the start of construction.

Environment impact

Construction can start after land acquisition, environmental clearances, and financial closure have been achieved. These are no easy tasks for a mega project of this nature, as India’s previous experience indicates. The Jaitapur-1 EPR reactor will pose challenges for NPCIL.

The National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur, is preparing an environmental impact assessment study covering 25 km radius from the site, based on which NPCIL will seek clearance from the Ministry of Environments and Forests for the project. The site falls in seismic zone four, not far from Latur, which had a major earthquake in 1993.

Opposition to the nuclear plant at Jaitapur is likely to come from environmental activists supported by anti-nuclear groups from abroad. Issues such as impact on marine ecology of coastal Ratnagiri due to warm sea water discharges of approximately 60 cubic metres per second from each EPR at a speed of 4 metres per second, which could affect the ecology of 3-5 sq km of the sea, will need consideration.

The way these issues are handled will have an important bearing on the future growth of the nuclear industry in India. NPCIL would be well advised to deal with such issues through transparent and open discussions with stakeholders well in advance to clear the air.

The AERB will need to gear up to play a crucial role in generating public confidence that environmental concerns are adequately met.
Financial closure

Financial closure for the two EPRs at Jaitapur will involve large investment of around Rs 45,000 crores spread over a period of six-seven years. In addition there are other ongoing projects being executed by NPCIL, for which resources have to be provided. Financial closure is intimately linked to various factors, such as interest and exchange rates, tariffs, and guarantees, and is likely to pose problems, especially in a turbulent economic scenario. The experience of the first EPR project in Finland needs to be kept in mind.

Financing for India’s ambitious nuclear power programme cannot be provided by the government or public sector alone. The sector has to be opened up to private participation and investment by domestic and foreign companies. This will ensure the healthy growth of the industry, with access to latest technology, and competition among the various players.

Indications are that the government is considering allowing up to 49 per cent share to private partners, but even raising resources for the 51 per cent shareholding is difficult, and this issue may have to be revisited.

We will have to compete with China for investment and fuel supplies. The DAE would have its hands full in dealing with the strategic programme, and in implementing the FBR — thorium-based fuel cycle, in which India alone has key interests.
Gaps to be plugged

The absence of a legal framework for civil nuclear liability is another constraint to growth. India is not so far a party to the relevant international conventions. There is also no specific domestic legislation on civil nuclear liability or insurance coverage of comparable scope, as in the case of the US or China. This gap needs to be addressed to improve the climate for foreign participation in the sector.

The nuclear power sector is part of the overall power market. Therefore, tariff-fixing mechanisms need careful consultation and discussion among all stakeholders to be independent, fair and transparent, with mechanisms for redress. In broader terms, the existing Atomic Energy Act, 1962, as last amended in 1987, will need to be comprehensively reviewed and updated.

The Government needs to carry out major policy reforms in consultation with the industry and other stakeholders, in keeping with the possibilities opened up after the end of India’s nuclear isolation. Only then will we be able to unleash the tiger of the Indian nuclear industry.

(The author is former Ambassador to Cuba and Greece.)