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French reactor tech, US fuel to drive India's N-power programme

Anil Sasi

With the US and France agreeing to support India's nuclear power programme, the country should be able to make progress on the 10 nuclear plants where work is currently under way, a Power Ministry official said.

New Delhi , Sept. 15

THE Government is working on the possibility of combining reactor technology from France and fuel imports from the US for the nuclear power programme.

The move comes in the wake of the US and France — the two largest nuclear power generators in the world — planning to assist the country in meeting its civilian nuclear needs.

The Government is bullish on achieving a three-fold increase in its current installed nuclear capacity of 2,770 MWe (mega watt electrical) to touch 7,280 MWe by March 2011, with the progressive completion of projects under construction, officials said, adding that a capacity of 20,000 MWe by 2020 is being targeted in light of the recent developments.

"With the two most important countries in the nuclear power generation sector, the US and now France, agreeing to support India's nuclear power programme, we should be able to step up work on the ten nuclear plants where work is under way," a Power Ministry official said.

Nuclear Power Corporation India Ltd (NPCIL) and Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd (BHAVINI) are setting up the projects with Central funding of Rs 30,116.38 crore.

According to officials, the possibility of a partnership with France, which has come close on the heels of the US administration's nod to provide nuclear fuel for Indian power projects, is crucial in light of the fact that France is the world's largest nuclear power generator on a per capita basis and ranks second in total installed nuclear capacity (after the US). Currently, about 77 per cent of France's electricity comes from its 58 nuclear reactors.

More importantly, since France undertook an impressive transition from its predominantly fossil fuel-based generation to a nuclear generation model in just over 30 years, India can take a leaf out of its book.

While in 1975, fossil fuels accounted for more than 80 per cent of French power generation, today nuclear power accounts for nearly 80 per cent of overall generation. "There are lessons to be learnt on how France managed the transition to a predominantly nuclear generation in such as short span of time and we can emulate the French model, especially since our coal reserves are projected to last another 50 years or so," an official said.

To step up the thrust on nuclear generation, the Centre has also asked the country's largest power generator National Thermal Power Corporation to enter the nuclear generation sector and the Rs 25,000-crore utility is in talks with NPCIL for executing projects jointly.

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