India drastically lowers nuclear energy target

India drastically lowers nuclear energy target

With little progress on ground since the 2008 Indo-US nuclear agreement, the government has drastically cut the nuclear energy target from 63,000 Mwe by 2032 to just about 14,500 Mwe by 2024.

Till August, the government informed Parliament that its nuclear energy target remains at 63,000 Mwe by 2032. The same figure was also mentioned in India's intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) document released last month.

“There is an internal revision in the target in July 2014 when it was decided to triple the current installed capacity in the next 10 years. This comes down to approximately 14,500 Mwe by 2024,” said Nalinesh Nagaich, Director (human resources), Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL).

Though many government documents quote 63,000 Mwe as the target, officials at the Department of Atomic Energy now claim it was only “an expression of intention” and never a target.

“The 63,000 Mwe target was based on expectation that after the Indo-US agreement, we would be rapidly able to expand our capacity by importing foreign reactors. We hoped that foreign reactors of 40,000 Mwe capacity would come.
That did not happen,” said an official.

While six nuclear power reactors with a total capacity of 4,300 Mwe are under various stages of constructions, more indigenous reactors are set to come up in Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Russia, too, has agreed to construct two more 1,000 Mwe reactors at Kudankulam.

But participation from French major Areva (Jaitapur) and US firms Westinghouse (Chhaya Mithi Virdhi, Gujarat) and General Electric (Kovadda, Andhra Pradesh) are nowhere close to reality due to lack of clarity on issues arising from the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010.

Though the India Nuclear Insurance Pool came into being in June to take care of the suppliers concerns on liability, the industry is waiting for the government to come out.

“Clarifications on exclusive channelling of the nuclear liability act is required. The Ministry of External Affairs website (where a set of frequently asked question in liability and insurance pool has been put up) is not a legal document. We need a document with legal validity,” said Patrick Ledermann, vice-chairman and managing director of Alstom India.

Achieving even the scaled-down target would take more than usual time unless the government removes several bureaucratic hurdles and addresses the suppliers’ concerns, said many top industry leaders.

The new Atomic Energy Commission chairman Sekhar Basu, however, assured the industry that insurance issues have almost been sorted out.

Suppliers who would design and manufacture equipment following the NPCIL specification and supervision would not be held responsible for liability in the contract, he added.

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