Westinghouse evaluating stake in AECL unit

NEW DELHI, INDIA - Nuclear technologies firm Westinghouse Electric Co. Llc is in talks with some Indian companies that are interested in setting up power projects, as the country prepares to open up nuclear energy to overseas firms.

Westinghouse is also considering the acquisition of a stake in the reactor business of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL).

“We have had some discussion with private sector companies,” said Meena Mutyala, vice-president (global growth) at Westinghouse. Mutyala, who is a member of a U.S. nuclear industry delegation visiting India, did not name the companies.

Under the current policy guidelines in India, atomic energy is exclusively reserved for the Centre. Nuclear power plants can be set up only by Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd (NPCIL), a public sector company under the department of atomic energy. This will change as part of the planned opening up of the sector following the civilian nuclear energy agreement with the U.S., allowing overseas nuclear energy companies to enter the country.

Private sector firms such as Tata Power Co. Ltd, GMR Energy Ltd, Jindal Steel and Power Ltd, JSW group, NTPC Ltd, Vedanta Resources Plc and Reliance Power Ltd have evinced interest in setting up nuclear power plants once the change takes place. Overseas nuclear power generation equipment firms such as French energy firm Areva SA, GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy Inc., a joint venture between General Electric Co. and Hitachi Ltd, and Russia’s Atomstroyexport also plan to supply reactors to state-owned NPCIL.

Both GE-Hitachi and Westinghouse will be developing one 10,000MW site each in India.

“We hope to sign a commercial agreement with NPCIL next year,” Mutyala added.

NPCIL plans to create an additional generating capacity of 3,160MW by 2012 and achieve 20,000MW of installed nuclear power capacity by 2020. Out of India’s installed power generation capacity of nearly 150,000MW, nuclear energy accounts for only 4,120MW, even as it tries to close the gap between galloping energy demand and deficient supply.

Mutyala said Westinghouse is “evaluating the proposal” to buy into AECL’s Candu (Canada deuterium uranium) reactor business. AECL could not be immediately contacted for comment. Candu pressurized heavy water reactor technology, developed by Canada and currently meeting around 16% of that country’s electricity demand, is marketed worldwide by AECL.


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