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Interaction | December 2015

Need to study which components fill technical and investment gap

Manju Gupta | President, Areva India

What is the role of nuclear power in India, especially given our power supply deficit?
Today the energy needs of the country are majorly met by burning fossil fuel. More than ever, there is a need of capacity building by means that can provide long term clean, green, cheap source of power. Apart from meeting these needs, for the scale of capacity that would be needed to meet the energy demand and get added to the grid, India requires a reliable, continuous source of sustainable and stable base load. The environmentally benign and economically viable source - Nuclear power should thus be slated to play that very important role in the power landscape of the country to meet these demanding conditions while meeting the huge energy needs for the ambitious GDP growth.

Estimates say that India needs to add around 20 GW each year for the next decade to be able to meet the increasing energy demand. India should exploit the potential of Nuclear power that can offer large base load capacity additions with very favourable operational conditions such as low fuel costs, high capacity and availability factors leading to very low operational cost over a long life of 60 years. By making nuclear energy a significant part of its energy mix, in the coming years, India can achieve the goal of reducing emissions and also address the country´s energy security challenges.

Is the Indian nuclear sector growing well considering the negative public opinion post Fukushima?
The Fukushima accident raised legitimate concerns, and the nuclear industry over the world, in unison and immediately, responded to ensure that all the lessons in nuclear safety are learned and incorporated wherever required, to ensure utmost safety even in severe situations.

The revival of the nuclear sector, post Fukushima has been slow because of the detailed review and analysis performed by the safety authorities to ensure robustness of the existing plant, those under construction and the technologies to withstand the Fukushima type severe conditions. Having said that, countries including India, are now bouncing back, with Japan itself restarting the operation of Sendai plant with another two in the process.

Public is an important stakeholder in this journey of growth of Nuclear power. I am sure that regulators AERB along with the entities involved in nuclear power production, directly or indirectly, are doing enough to address the concerns.

while embarking on the ambitious growth of nuclear power including construction of nuclear parks with PHWR and PWR technologies.

Areva is the supplier of EPRs for the Jaitapur nuclear project in Maharashtra. What is the current status of the project?
In April 2015, AREVA and NPCIL signed a pre-engineering agreement for the Jaitapur project. Both teams are now jointly working towards preliminary assessment of licensability of EPR in India as per Indian regulations. Simultaneously, we also signed a MoU with Larsen & Toubro for localisation of the components which go into EPR reactor. This not only will contribute towards the Make in India mission, it will also improve the competitiveness of the project.

Meanwhile, discussions with NCPIL continue to find different solutions to bring Jaitapur project to fruition.

Projects are being commissioned and planned. Is there marked growth in orders in the last 2 years?
While it is not possible to estimate whether there is growth in orders or supply in last two years, we can clearly see that Indian government is making lot of efforts to improve the business and policy environment to provide boost to increase of nuclear energy share.

What are the difficulties you face in the nuclear power field in India?
India has already developed vast array of capabilities and a robust supply chain to meet the needs of the domestic nuclear sector. This makes it easier to a certain extent, to build upon the Indian industry´s existing strengths in supplying nuclear grade components/materials. Having said that, the EPR being a PWR type reactor with much different specifications and applicable codes and standards, sourcing and developing the components with Indian industry will require a detailed study to understand the gaps in terms of technical and investment needs and ways and means to fill the gap.

Insurance pool framework has been now created by GOI to cover the damages due to a nuclear accident in India. However, the implementation details are yet unclear and awaited for technology suppliers like us.

What would you recommend to the concerned agencies to make the process smoother?
It is difficult for us to really comment on this aspect. However from a distance, one perspective that could be interesting is to look for a single ministry administering energy needs as against the current setup with commercial nuclear power being outside of the purview of Ministry of Power, in order to provide a more holistic view for growth of power sector.

What technological strides can we expect now that India is no longer excluded from nuclear trade?
India seems to have used the years of its isolation well to develop its own indigenous capabilities in this field. With those times behind, one can expect heralding of an era of collaborations and partnerships for nuclear industry. These could be new technologies of reactor design and associated components, manufacturing of components requiring different skills, processes and scale, new products such as fuel fabrication, collaborations in areas of research and development, opportunities for the Indian industry to work in third countries together with technology suppliers and many other such possibilities.

It will also give a boost to the production of nuclear power generating capacities of domestic plants through import of uranium from suppliers world over. Thus it opens the nuclear sector in India to vast opportunities.

Incompatibility between Indian law and international conventions limits foreign technology. Can we overcome this?
Regarding the nuclear civil liability act and its implementation rules, it appears that some clauses of the Indian civil nuclear liability law are open to various interpretations. However, government has taken some measures to address the concerns of suppliers. Clarity is awaited on how the measures for technology suppliers will translate into economic and legal impact.

Foreign technology reactors play a very important role in India´s 3-stage nuclear program. The large capacity additions and their output are critical for moving forward at the desired pace and hence implementation clarity would be important to make progress quickly.

How important is R&D in developing in-grown technology?
Research and Development plays a critical role in the innovation process. It´s essentially an investment in technology and future capabilities which is transformed into new products, processes, services and ultimately economic & social development. There is constant innovation in how nuclear energy can be safer, economic and efficient.

With the right level of innovation and R&D, the Indian nuclear industry can not only shape the future of the Indian nuclear projects but can also become a partner of choice for international nuclear projects.

India´s expects 14.6 GW nuclear capacity by 2024, and supplying 25% of electricity by 2050. Do you think we are close?
India has indeed set up an ambitious goal for growth of the nuclear power capacity. Capacity addition to the tune of 40 GWe is targeted from the PWRs with Gen III technology. Considering that this capacity has a significance attached in terms of achieving not only the purpose and pace of 3 phase program, but also to support the aim to provide environmental friendly, economically viable power option along with other domestic technologies such as PHWR, FBR and AHWR, it is important that a rigorous plan be set up to achieve these ambitions.

We believe it is very much possible to achieve the goals set by GOI. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in the recent times, has taken some very bold and encouraging steps thus reaffirming the country´s commitment to development of nuclear energy. It keeps the optimism high of the entire nuclear community, within and externally, that India will see a steady increase of nuclear power in India´s overall energy mix.

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