Talks on with 4 foreign cos for nuke reactor equipment: Chavan

The involvement of foreign suppliers in the country's peaceful nuclear programme notwithstanding, 60 to 70 per cent of the supplies would be made by Indian companies, Chavan said, trashing accusations by those opposed to the legislation that it was aimed at "pleasing" the Americans.

Chavan, also the Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, said talks were underway with French company Areva, US-Japanese firm GE Hitachi, Japanese company Westing House and a Russian firm.

"There will be about 60 to 70 per cent Indian suppliers. Hence, it is wrong to presume that the bill was passed to please US President Barack Obama before his visit to India in November and serve the interests of the American companies," Chavan told members of the trade and industry at the Indian Merchants Chamber.

Noting that five top legal firms were advising the government in drafting necessary rules, the minister said all equipment will be purchased through the Nuclear Power Corporation of India limited or a joint venture led by NPCIL.

He said the equipment from foreign vendors will be taken only after the design was approved by Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).

Chavan said no private sector players including foreign companies will operate the reactors. "They will only be equipment suppliers and we have no problem if they have only minority stakes in setting up reactors."

Maintaining that nuclear power reactors were safe and no major accident had occurred in the last 25 years, Chavan said the government still did not want to take any chances and so the need for a legislation to deal with civil liability in the event of a nuclear mishap.
Chavan described the nuclear liability bill as a landmark legislation which will unlock business opportunities in the country's energy expansion programme.

Referring to circumstances in which the bill was passed despite the UPA not having a majority in the Rajya Sabha, he said the passage of the civil nuclear liability bill provided a template that consensus decisions could be arrived at by taking on board one and all.
"Our current installed capacity is 1,64,000 MW and by 2030 we intend to quadruple it. Of this the share of nuclear power, which has zero carbon footprint, is just 2.4 per cent" he said.

"like nuclear power, hydro and solar energy also have zero carbon footprint. We have to think about carbon taxation in view of the global concerns about climate change and green house emissions," the minister said, but added that coal-based power could not be done away with in the near future.

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