Mumbai: India may be forced to slash its target for new nuclear power stations as an accord with the US falters, prolonging electricity shortages that shave 2 percentage points off annual economic growth.
Expecting delays: NPCIL chairman Shreyans Kumar Jain. Photograph: Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint
“Time is slipping out of our hands,” Shreyans Kumar Jain, chairman of the Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd or NPCIL, said in an interview in Mumbai. India’s plan to add 25,000 MW before 2020 by importing reactors and fuel will be delayed by two decades if the nation has to rely on indigenous designs, he said.
The 2005 accord between US President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has stalled because of political opposition in India.
The delay will curb $14 billion of orders for reactors from suppliers including General Electric Co. and Westinghouse Electric Co. and hamper India’s plans to increase nuclear generation almost 10-fold to end blackouts.
Singh’s Left allies have said they won’t back the agreement because they oppose closer ties with the US. Singh, who relies on the communist parties to retain a majority in parliament, faces national elections in a year.
India now has 4,120MW of nuclear capacity, is building 3,160MW and plans to add 7,900MW outside the accord, according to NPCIL.
During peak hours, India’s power supply falls 14.8% short of demand, according to the government.
Lack of infrastructure, especially power, has eroded 2 percentage points off the country’s growth, according to the Asian Development Bank.
About 400 million people, or a third of the population, have no access to electricity, according to the United Nations. NPCIL had planned to order reactors from General Electric, Westinghouse, France’s Areva SA and Rosatom of Russia.