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Nuclear power outlay rises

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Delhi
  • Published 16.02.09
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New Delhi, Feb. 16: The outlay for India’s nuclear power programme in the 2009-10 interim budget is 28 per cent more than the previous year while the allocation for atomic energy has contracted by Rs 129 crore.

The planned allocation for nuclear power schemes is up from a revised estimate of Rs 1,813 crore for 2008-09 to Rs 2,337 crore for 2009-10, with a significant proportion earmarked for building up the fuel inventory for nuclear power plants.

India has ordered 300 tonnes of uranium fuel from French company Areva for its nuclear plants under safeguards, expected to be delivered later this year. It has also ordered 2,000 tonnes from Russia which will be imported over several years. The budget allocation for the nuclear fuel inventory has gone up to Rs 953 crore for 2009-10, from Rs 583 crore last year.

A senior official at the Nuclear Power Corporation (NPC), the public-sector company that builds and operates India’s nuclear power reactors, said the budget increase this year was not intended for any new reactors.

“We’re budget-neutral, so our plans to build new nuclear reactors may not become visible in Union budget documents,” the official said. The NPC has said it will use its own internal resources and borrowed funds for new reactors.

But the outlay for atomic energy that covers key nuclear research centres and other institutions has reduced from last year’s revised estimate of Rs 4,964 crore to Rs 4,835 crore for 2009-10.

A senior scientist said the reduction in the allocation for atomic energy did not reflect any cuts in research programmes. “The procedure for government spending has become complicated over the years. The speed at which we can spend the funds has reduced,” the scientist said. “When the allocated funds don’t get used up during the year, it is reflected in the budget next year.”

The 2009-10 outlays for space and earth sciences are also more than 25 per cent higher than the previous year’s allocations. The department of space will get Rs 4,459 crore in 2009-10, against Rs 3,499 in 2008-09.