India to double nuclear output

INDIA - State-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) has announced that it will double power generation to 28 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) during this fiscal year.

NPCIL, which recently commissioned the second unit of the Rajasthan atomic power plant with uranium feedstock from Areva SA, has indicated that the targets have been revised since the supply of fuel for reactors has stabilized considerably. Officials indicate that the status of the fuel supply has improved during the last two to three years. NPCIL's earlier power generation target was 19 billion kWh.

Presently, NPCIL operates 17 nuclear reactors in the country, with a total installed capacity of about 4,120 megawatts (MW). With sustained uranium supplies, these reactors are operating at 78% capacity. Last year, the capacity utilization was only about 50%.

Subsequent to the Nuclear Suppliers Group lifting the 34-year nuclear trade embargo, India has been garnering the attention of international nuclear equipment manufacturers, energy firms and public sector enterprises. The Indian government has opened the nuclear power generating sector to state-owned and public-sector companies through joint ventures with NPCIL.

However, the government has emphasized that international and private energy companies cannot establish and operate nuclear power plants in the country. However, international firms can provide technology assistance and nuclear power equipment for projects in India. India has already signed several deals with leading international companies to purchase nuclear power equipment.

According to a recent report, Indian Oil Corporation is likely to sign an agreement with NPCIL to acquire a stake of 26% to 49% in one of the planned nuclear projects. The projects under consideration are the $2.89 billion, 1,400-MW Kakrapar plant in Gujarat, the $5.79 billion, 3,300-MW Jaitapur project in Maharashtra, and the $3.71 billion, 2,200-MW nuclear power project in Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu.

National Aluminium Company Limited (NALCO) is in talks with NPCIL to form a joint venture company to develop a $2.47 billion nuclear power plant in Ganjam, Orissa.

NALCO reportedly has also submitted a plan seeking technical assistance from NPCIL to build a 1,500-MW nuclear power plant. Sources indicate that about 10,000 acres of land has been allocated at Pati Sonapur for this project. Pati Sonapur is an ideal site for the proposed nuclear power plant as it is close to the Orissa Sands complex developed by India Rare Earths Limited (IREL). IREL is planning to set up a $30.9 million monazite-processing facility in the complex, which will extract uranium from monazite.

In February, NTPC Limited signed a 49:51 joint venture agreement with NPCIL, to build and operate nuclear power plants. Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) has formed a joint venture with NPCIL to set up a 700-MW nuclear equipment production facility. The joint venture, which is seeking a technology partner, is in talks with Alstom SA, Siemens AG, and Areva.

Media reports indicate that Alstom is likely to be the third partner in this venture. A formal announcement is expected to be made in October.

Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVNL), which operates hydropower projects in Himachal Pradesh, has approached NPCIL to jointly develop nuclear power plants. The move to nuclear power is part of SJVNL's proposed $3.71 billion expansion program.

India, which produces about 70% of its energy demand from conventional sources, aims to fulfill 25% of its energy demand from nuclear power by the year 2020. Despite being a late entrant into this sector, India is expected to attract domestic and international investments of more than $27 billion in the next 15 years.


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