Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Wednesday, Jul 20, 2005
Government - Foreign Relations
Indo-US joint statement boosts prospects for nuclear power `Lifting of restrictions will help India set up new plants'
Mumbai , July 19
PROSPECTS of India ramping up its nuclear power generation through introduction of a new breed of reactors developed in Russia, the UK, France and the US have heightened in the wake of the joint statement issued by the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, and the US President, Mr George Bush, in the White House on Monday.
The two leaders, among other things, discussed India's plans to develop its civilian nuclear energy programme. The President told the Prime Minister that he would work to "achieve full civil nuclear energy cooperation with India, as it realises its goals of promoting nuclear power and achieving energy security."
The President will seek agreement from Congress to adjust US laws and policies and the United States will also "work with friends and allies to adjust international regimes to enable full civil nuclear energy cooperation and trade with India."
Nuclear power industry experts feel that if things worked out well, this could be the beginning for India to not only gain global access to nuclear fuel, but also get new reactor technologies from the US and other countries. Countries such as Russia, UK and France have already indicated their willingness to participate in India's nuclear energy programme, but, due to the restrictions on India, this had so far not been possible.
According to the experts, these countries can help India develop new generation reactors like pressurised water reactors and standardised boiling water reactors that use low enriched uranium as fuel, if India could achieve full civil nuclear energy cooperation from the US.
"If the joint statement leads to the positive development of these restrictions being lifted from India, the country could expect a boost in its nuclear generation programme. However, we have to wait and watch the subsequent developments," Mr S.K. Jain, Chairman and Managing Director of Nuclear Power Corporation (NPC), told Business Line.
Mr Jain, however, said access to global fuel would not make a significant difference to the existing and the proposed nuclear power plants in India, as the country was self-sufficient in supply. The lifting of restrictions will help India set up new plants outside its present nuclear power development programme.
India at present has 14 nuclear power plants, out of which 12 plants get their annual requirement of 300 tonnes of uranium fuel from indigenous sources. Only the remaining two, the Tarapur I and II, which were set up over 36 years ago, depend on fuel from outside sources these two plants require about 25 tonnes of fuel annually.
The lifting of restrictions could help India get broader access to fuel from outside sources for these two plants, which can be operated for another 20 years by undertaking certain modern safety measures.
The 14 plants have a combined generation capacity of 3,300 MW. With the eight new plants that are likely to be operational within the next two-and-half years, India's total nuclear power generation will go up to 7,000 MW.
"In the second stage, we are planning about 15 to 20 new plants having fast breeder reactors, with each having a capacity of over 500 MW. These plants will be using a fuel mix of plutonium, uranium and thorium," Mr Jain pointed out.
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