New Delhi: Naveen Jindal’s Jindal Steel and Power Ltd, or JSPL, which mines ore and coal and produces steel and electricity, plans to set up nuclear power plants once the government opens up atomic energy to the private sector.
“We are looking at the nuclear option,” said a senior executive at the company, owned by Jindal, who is a Congress party leader and member of Parliament.
“Once the Indian government allows the entry of the private companies into that sector, we plan to diversify into the nuclear power generation space,” added the executive, who did not wish to be declined.
Future move: The Areva-constructed nuclear power plant at Civaux, France. The company is among the global power technology providers which are eyeing the Indian market. Photograph: Bloomberg
The company has set up a 1,000MW thermal power plant at Raigarh in Chhattisgarh and plans to set up additional capacities of 2,520MW and 2,640MW in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, respectively.
According to the current guidelines, atomic energy is the exclusive preserve of the Union government. Nuclear power plants can be set up only by the Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd, or NPCIL, a public sector firm under the department of atomic energy.
The sector is expected to be opened up to the private sector and other state-owned firms with changes in the existing legal and policy framework if the Indo-US civilian nuclear cooperation deal is passed by the US Congress.
JSW group, controlled by Naveen Jindal’s elder brother Sajjan Jindal, said last month it intends to enter the nuclear energy business, joining power utilities such as NTPC Ltd, Tata Power Ltd, Vedanta Resources and Reliance Power Ltd that have shown interest in setting up atomic power plants.
Out of India’s installed power generation capacity of more than 140,000MW, nuclear energy accounts for only 4,120MW.
The country’s existing 17 nuclear reactors are facing a fuel crunch with uranium in short supply, and are operating at 50% of capacity.
NPCIL plans to create additional generating capacity of 3,160MW by 2012.
According to audit and consulting firm KPMG’s India Energy Outlook report, India’s department of atomic energy hopes to build 250,000MW of nuclear capacity by 2050 to meet the country’s long-term power requirements.
Domestic power companies believe they would be able to source nuclear energy equipment competitively from local manufacturers such as state-owned Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd, or Bhel, which also plans to enter the nuclear reactor components business, as reported by Mint on 29 July.
“The national electricity policy provides for the private sector participation in the nuclear power sector, provided that the necessary amendment are made to the Atomic Energy Act,” said former power secretary R.V. Shahi.
“The private sector isimmensely interested insetting up nuclear power projects. However, for that to happen, this door needs to be opened.”
Overseas nuclear power technology providers such as Alstom SA, Areva SA, Siemens AG and General Electric Co. are eyeing Indian nuclear power sector orders estimated to be worth $14 billion (Rs58,800 crore).