India may open nuclear power to private firms

India may open nuclear power to private firms
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First Published: Fri, Sep 12 2008. 10 40 PM IST
Updated: Fri, Sep 12 2008. 10 40 PM IST
New Delhi: India may allow private companies to generate nuclear power as early as a year after the US Congress approves an agreement, said Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of a United Nations panel that won the Nobel Peace Prize.
The government may unveil a policy after elections due next year, Pachauri, an adviser to the Prime Minister on climate change, said on Thursday. “Not because the government is afraid of announcing anything, but mainly because they will have to do a lot of homework.”
State-run Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd operates the 17 reactors in six states that produce 4,120MW of electricity. Pachauri expects private companies, both domestic and overseas, to be allowed as the government seeks to build 40,000MW of nuclear capacity by 2020, a third of the nation’s total power generation.
GMR Energy Ltd plans to set up nuclear power plants, Avinash Shah, its executive vice-president, said on Thursday. Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd has also said it will consider opportunities in the nuclear industry.
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GVK Power and Infrastructure Ltd plans to buy reactors and equipment from General Electric Co. and Westinghouse Electric Co. Llc. GVK is also negotiating with Alstom SA and Siemens AG, chief executive G.V. Krishna Reddy said on 9 September.
“One of the benefits of opening the nuclear power industry to the rest of the world is that you will get a lot of expertise from other countries where this has been handled on a large scale,” said Pachauri, who was re-elected chairman of the UN panel on climate change on 2 September for another six-years.
US president George W. Bush has submitted the nuclear energy agreement with India to the Congress for final approval, seeking to win ratification before it adjourns on 26 September. A group of 45 nuclear supplier nations last week granted India a waiver of a ban on trade in nuclear fuel and supplies.
“We will get capacity established rather quickly and perhaps set up efficiently because the private sector will have a much bigger stake in seeing that the project implementation is done well,” Pachauri said.
India will need to be careful when choosing the sites of nuclear plants, Pachauri said. “We will have to find locations where the environmental and human implications are minimal.”
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First Published: Fri, Sep 12 2008. 10 40 PM IST