The issue of allowing the private sector to participate in nuclear power generation independently of the government has been put on the backburner with the Centre withdrawing a minor amendment to the Atomic Energy Act, 1962, from the Cabinet at the last moment.
Confirming this, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi said, "Before the meeting started, the amendment was withdrawn."
The amendment would have enabled the private sector to take advantage of the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Agreement.
"We're not even talking of getting the private sector to build nuclear reactors. At the moment, India can buy reactors only from other states. But there are several US companies that have the technology. This will need to be reviewed. But not now," said a source.
The Atomic Energy Act, 1962, allows nuclear power generation only by a Central government company. In the Lok Sabha last month, replying to a question, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chavan conceded that this would have to be reviewed through an amendment of the act.
According to the existing law, private players can hold up to 49 per cent equity in any nuclear power generation company, but the majority shares have to remain with the Centre.
A review of the Atomic Energy Act has been under consideration for the past 10 years. An expert committee, set up in 1997 under the chairmanship of scientist Raja Ramanna, had submitted its report in 1998.
This report was reviewed by an expert committee of the Department of Atomic Energy, which made some recommendations related to national security and strengthening the regulatory mechanism in the atomic energy sector.