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Interaction | December 2015

Nuclear pacts improve Generation Potential

Kaustubh Shukla | Chief Operating Officer, Industrial Products Group, Godrej & Boyce

What is the role of nuclear power in India, especially given our power supply deficit?
In terms of clarity of vision and rationale, our 3 stage nuclear energy programme is unparalleled. Yet, for various reasons, the Indian nuclear power sector has not achieved its true potential. For decades, we had to develop indigenous technology, prove it, mature it and then scale it from 220 MW to 550-700 MW in the recent years. Later, shortage of Nuclear fuel put limitations to the rate and scale we could have grown.

The Indo-US Nuclear agreement sought to change all that. Post agreement with the US, similar agreements for cooperation in Nuclear Energy have been signed with several countries - Russia, France, Australia, Kazakhstan etc.

Is the Indian nuclear sector growing well considering the negative public opinion post Fukushima?
As we were readying to scale the sector up, Fukushima happened. Though the Indian experience and safety record has been outstanding, post the Fukushima incident NPCIL, DAE and AERB reviewed the safety arrangements at all plants, and it took some time. We must commend the Indian nuclear establishments for having done a commendable job of improving wherever necessary the already robust and reliable safety systems.

It is true that public perception was vitiated for some time, but outreach, engagement, and rational communication has helped. Fair compensation for Project affected persons, CSR activities have been a hallmark of the programme so far and going forward would help create a positive perception about the future programmes. So once the nagging issues pertaining to the CLNDA & Rules are addressed, we can expect a rapid expansion of Nuclear power sector. In the interim, the earlier Vision of 63 GW by 2032 has been scaled down to 14.5 GW by 2024, and that certainly looks achievable with domestic and foreign reactors. Godrej, with proven track record of superior execution of orders for nuclear power equipment is equipped and very keen to support establishment of domestic Nuclear Power Plants.

Projects are being commissioned and planned. Is there marked growth in orders in the last two years?
Godrej enjoys a reputation for superior/best in class execution of projects. All the orders for Nuclear Power Generation equipment that we had won in 2010, have been executed way back by 2013.

The next cycle of tendering has been languishing, as a solution to the concerns of industry due to the onerous Right of Recourse the operator can have under the CLNDA & Rules, is still work in progress. So, there have been no new orders released in the past 4 to 5 years.

Are you a supplier to any of the upcoming projects?
Godrej is very keen to participate in all upcoming requirements and working closely with NPCIL.

What technological strides can we expect now that India is no longer excluded from nuclear trade?
India has the technology for 700 MW plants and with availability of fuel, can embark on an ambitious plan to set up such plants. Our agreements with countries like US, France and Russia will pave the way of establishment of Light Water Reactors. The indigenous Fast Breeder Reactor is in advanced stages of completion, and work is underway for the Advanced Heavy Water (Thorium) Reactors. Once in place, India can boast of the most advanced and efficient Nuclear energy ecosystem. Albeit delayed, these technological achievements are truly stupendous.

Having been closely associated with country´s Nuclear power generation programme, Godrej is proud to have partnered in numerous technological advancements and would do so for the FBRs and AHWRs too.

Incompatibility between Indian law and international conventions limits foreign technology. Can we overcome this?
The official view is that the CLNDA & Rules will comply with the international conventions. India has been a very responsible developer of nuclear energy and as it is keen to integrate with other countries with advanced nuclear technology. We can trust that international conventions would be respected.

Reasons for developing indigenous technology are different. We envision a very efficient nuclear energy ecosystem, due to the 3 stage programme, and hence are pursuing development of technology in that direction. We also need to scale up nuclear energy generation capacity and hence are looking forward to partner with other countries who have advanced technologies in establishing Light Water Reactors. So we see development on both directions.

Godrej has made significant contributions to PHWR & PFBR and is equally keen to participate in the CFBR and AHWR. Similarly, Godrej is keen to partner with foreign companies to help them localise and hence reduce costs for their reactors.

India´s expects 14.6 GW nuclear capacity by 2024, and supplying 25% of electricity by 2050. Do you think we are close?
This is scaled down vision from the earlier vision of 63 GW by 2032. That would have been a challenging, exciting and invigorating plan. In comparison, the target of 14.6 GW by 2024, looks quite feasible. To achieve this, we have to hasten the speed of execution - decision making, deployment of required resources, clearances for projects, acquisition of land at the chosen sites and all activities that feed into it. However the time is running out, and sooner we embark on the mission, better would be our chances of meeting it. Godrej is ready to support this endeavor in all earnestness.

India has a vision of becoming a world leader in nuclear technology. Are we track to achieve this?
In line with India´s vision of a 3 stage programme, work is underway for completing the FBR and developing technology for Advanced Heavy Water (Thorium) Reactors. While work is going on feverishly, being first of their kind developments they may be seen as taking time to come to fruition.

We must acknowledge that these are advanced technologies and reliability and safety have to be of utmost concerns. Therefore the designs and prototypes undergo numerous screens and tests. Being right the first time far outweighs doing it fast and we must therefore give the designers, technologists, scientists their space and time. Godrej is ever ready to execute any such work package that our agencies require, to give them the confidence regarding manufacturability.

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