Mumbai: French Atomic Energy Commission chairman Bernard Bigot said on Monday that work on the Jaitapur nuclear power project in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra was unlikely to start before 2014 due to regulatory hurdles.

Bernard Bigot, chairman, French Atomic Energy Commission. Photo: PTI

“We were waiting for the implementation rules to be published under the civil nuclear liability law," he said after meeting Banerjee. “Once Parliament approves these rules, we can go ahead with the negotiations.

“For instance, one such rule says that in the case of a nuclear accident, the primary responsibility lies with the operator (NPCIL) who has recourse against the supplier only under certain circumstances," he said. “We are hoping that the Indian Parliament will approve these rules at the earliest," he said.

Areva is the technology partner of NPCIL, which is developing a 9,900 (1650x6) megawatts (MW) Jaitapur project. In an attempt to address safety concerns over the Jaitapur plant, Bigot said, “If geological studies show that Jaitapur and its surrounding areas can witness an earthquake of six on the Richter scale, then we will design and build a plant which can withstand an earthquake of 7.5 on Richter scale."

A research paper published in the 25 November issue of Current Science by Roger Bilham, professor of geology at Colorado university, Vinod Kumar Gaur, professor, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, said Jaitapur and adjoining areas may witness earthquakes up to 6 on the Richter scale.

Bigot admitted that the Evolutionary Pressurized Reactor (EPR) is an improvement over existing technologies. But he pointed out that before the Indian EPR goes on stream, there will be at least four EPRs operational in the world—one each in France and Finland and two in China. “It will be wrong to say that we are experimenting with this technology on India and Indians," he said.

Responding to Japan’s reluctance to supply certain components for Areva’s EPRs in India —as the South Asian nation is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)—Bigot said, “Both India and France will try to pursue Japan to provide India these components for Indian EPRs as India’s record on non-proliferation is impeccable. But if Japan refuses to supply, Areva has alternative arrangements in place but sourcing this component from an alternative source will be more costly compared to components manufactured in Japan as it has all the necessary infrastructure in place."

France remains committed to fulfil all its obligations under the civilian nuclear deal signed with India three years ago, he said.