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Govt ready to raise the bar in nuclear power

New Delhi, Aug. 26: The government is planning to raise the target for nuclear power generation to 40,000MW by 2030 from 36,000MW.

The Prime Minister’s energy co-ordination council had chalked out a plan to add 16,000MW of the power by 2020 and another 20,000MW over the next 10 years.

Vilas Muttemwar, the minister for non-conventional energy and a member of the council, told The Telegraph, “We now plan to increase nuclear power generation capacity to 40,000MW by 2030.”

The plans will, however, depend on the Left and the Congress-led alliance working out a compromise that will allow India to import uranium from Australia and Russia.

“We laid a lot of stress on nuclear power because it is clean power, does not pollute much and the plant load factor is high at about 80-85 per cent,” Muttemwar said.

The higher targets will mean a huge spend on plants. This is now being estimated at about Rs 150,000 crore instead of earlier estimates of Rs 60,000 crore.

Capital costs have come down from $5,000 per kilowatt in the 1970s to about $1,000-1,400 per kilowatt at present, officials said.

This makes nuclear power a viable option.

Initially, because of the large costs involved, state-run utilities will start setting up plants.

Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd has already drawn up plans to set up four plants in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Bengal.

The utility wants to buy the AP1000 series of reactors from the US-based Westinghouse, the ABWR series from General Electric, as well as 1,000MW reactors from France’s Areva and VVR 1,000 reactors from Russia.

Nuclear Power Corporation is also eyeing minority stakes in Australian uranium mines.

Australia has already committed to sell India uranium after the International Atomic Energy Agency negotiated a safeguard agreement with the country.

NTPC, which generates thermal power, is also planning to diversify into nuclear energy and plans to add 2,000MW by 2012. It is scouting for sites in Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh.

It is also in preliminary talks with a number of global technology leaders.

It is felt that it may partner with the Russians because of lower costs.

The government also wants to throw open the sector to private players.

Leading energy players such as the Tata group, Anil Ambani-led Reliance Energy, GMR and Essar are expected to set up nuclear power plants.

Others, such as L&T and Bhel, are expected to form alliances with global equipment suppliers.

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