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No downturn for India's nuclear power plan

January 22, 2009 04:02 IST

India's nuclear power programme is unlikely to be affected by the ongoing global slowdown since Nuclear Power Corporation of India -- the sole company authorised to set up nuclear plants in the country -- is cash-rich.

NPCIL Chairman and Managing Director SK Jain said the company had cash reserves of over $2.75 billion to fund the equity portion of the projects, which will have a debt-to-equity ratio of 70:30. India is working on raising its nuclear power generation capacity to 60,000 Mw by 2032 against the current 4,120 Mw. Another 3,160 Mw capacity is under construction.

"We can mobilise the debt portion through domestic and external commercial borrowings. Two domestic agencies have accorded AAA credit rating to us," Jain said while attending a meeting on India's collaboration with the UK in the nuclear sector.

According to the 11th Five-Year Plan targets, India aims to build 5,600 Mw (8 X 700 Mw) pressurised heavy water reactors, 1,500 Mw (3X500 Mw) fast breeder reactors, 300 Mw (1X300 Mw) advanced heavy water (thorium) reactors and 10,000 Mw (10 X1000 Mw) Light Water Reactors (LWRs). The target is to increase the share of nuclear energy in the energy basket from the current 4.1 per cent to 9 per cent in the next 25 years.

Jain said the opportunity would be huge for the supplier industry. India needs 1,600 tonnes of uranium every year. Four likely vendors -- GE Hitachi and Toshiba Westighouse of the US, Areva of France and Rostam of Russia -- will provide LWRs of 1,000 Mw and above which will come up in four-six nuclear parks.

Construction will begin at four-five sites simultaneously within a few years. "We have conveyed to the vendors that the deal will be based on fuel supply assurance for the lifetime of reactors (about 60 years). They can execute the deal through consortium or other arrangements," said Jain.

Challenges include sourcing of major equipment and forgings as Indian industry does not have enough capacity.

Jain said a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the proposed joint venture with NTPC would be signed within two months.

On private sector participation, he said currently only NPCIL and Bhavini were allowed to set up nuclear reactors in the country. Other public sector units can enter the sector as minority shareholders.

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