PM bets on nuke power potential

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Delhi
  • Published 30.09.09
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New Delhi, Sept. 29: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh envisages a mammoth increase in nuclear power generation at 470,000 mega watt by 2050 against just 4,020 MW now.

“If we can manage our (nuke) programme well, our three-stage strategy can yield potentially 470,000 MW by 2050. This will sharply reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and will be a major contribution to the global efforts to combat climate change,” he said.

Nuclear power production at 4,120 MW from 17 reactors meets just about 4 per cent of the energy needs of the economy. The rest is largely met through fossil fuels such as coal. Singh has been consistently pressing for the use of nuclear and solar energies on a larger scale to reduce India’s dependence on crude oil imports, which stand at 70 per cent of requirements.

The international community had banned India from nuclear energy trading after it tested some nuclear weapons in 1978. The ban was lifted in 2008 following the signing of a civilian nuclear agreement with the US.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group and the International Atomic Energy Agency changed their rules to make an exception for India, which is not a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. This resulted in the US, France and Russia seeking access to the booming domestic market through deals to supply uranium and build reactors.

Larsen & Toubro, the country’s leading engineering and construction firm, said it could build nuclear power plants with capacity to generate 3,000-4,000 MW each year.

“To build four to six reactors is not a problem,” L&T chairman A.M. Naik said.

“I do not think there is a chance to produce more than 2,000 MW because the country is not yet ready in a big way,” he said. L&T has invested $500 million in the nuclear business. Thermal power firm NTPC also plans to diversify into nuclear energy and add 2,000 MW by 2017.

Besides NTPC, Bhel and several private players could benefit from the spillover effect of nuclear commerce. Bhel plans to spend Rs 1,500 crore over the next two years in building plants to supply components for 1,600 MW reactors, sources said.