India close to sealing deal on Jaitapur plant

The long-awaited Indo-French agreement to set up two 1,650 MW nuclear reactors at Jaitapur may be signed within the next few months, top sources in the government said.

To be inked between French energy major Areva and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), the commercial contract is still being negotiated between the two sides as India wants to further lower the cost. Asked about the future of Jaitapur project, which is stuck for close to two years, sources told Deccan Herald: “There are still some financial issues. We are trying to bring down the cost as far as possible. The agreement will be signed in the second half of this year.”

Nuclear cooperation between India and France is likely to figure in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s bilateral discussion with newly elected French President Francois Hollande on the sidelines of G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico.

India wants Areva to set up six of its 1,650 MW EPR reactors at Jaitapur, making it the country’s largest nuclear park which will generate 9,900 MW of energy. The agreement being negotiated is for installing the first two of the six units.

The project was hit first by agitation on land acquisition and subsequently due to Fukushima nuclear disaster after which India wanted French Nuclear Safety Authority to have a re-look at the EPR design and suggest modifications if needed. Department of Atomic Energy received the review in January 2012, it was scrutinised by DAE and Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. Threads of commercial negotiations then were picked up again by both sides. Meanwhile, land acquisition in Jaitapur has been completed and a few ancillary constructions were carried out in the last one and half years. The wait now is to formal signing of the agreement and Cabinet approval.

In the wake of protests on land acquisition and setting up of nuclear plants in coastal areas, Maharashtra government took several administrative steps including framing a new rehabilitation package to calm down frayed nerves.

But, anti-nuclear activists in all probability may return to Jaitapur once the project starts as they claim establishing six nuclear plants would destroy the livelihood of fishermen and ruin coastal biodiversity.

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