The Department of Atomic Energy’s efforts to forge joint ventures with PSUs for building foreign nuclear reactors in the country has received a setback with the Railways declining its offer to enter a partnership for the purpose, a senior government official has said. The Railways has not cited any reason for refusing to collaborate with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), a PSU under the DAE, the official said. The NPCIL operates 22 nuclear reactors in the country with a total capacity of 6,780 MW.
Under the proposal, the DAE had also offered to sell electricity to the Railways but the national carrier did not find it lucrative. The official, who requested anonymity, said the Railways was looking for capital for its own expansion and they seemed unwilling to divert their resources. The NPCIL has also entered joint ventures with the National Aluminium Company Ltd (NALCO), the Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL) and the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC). However, even the response from these companies has not been very forthcoming, the official pointed out.
Generation of nuclear energy in India is restricted to PSUs. The high capital-intensive sector demands massive funds, especially for the foreign reactors that are coming up after the signing of the Indo-US nuclear deal in 2008. The government decided to rope in PSUs to provide the much-needed capital for the sector. The Atomic Energy Act, 1962, was also amended by Parliament last year to enable the NPCIL to form joint ventures with other PSUs.
“The PSUs have not shown keen interest to go ahead with the projects. We are still pursuing the matter with them,” the official added. Currently, the DAE is looking for a JV for three sites including Kovadda in Andhra Pradesh, where American nuclear company Westinghouse Co is to build six reactors, Jaitapur in Maharashtra, where French company EDF is building another set of six reactors.
The third one is with the Russians, where an additional site has been earmarked in Kavali in Andhra Pradesh. These three projects are at different stages of negotiation. “We are hoping that the talks (will) gain traction as negotiations are finalised,” the official said. The government recently approved building of 10 Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) atomic reactors in the country, which will be constructed indigenously. However, the NPCIL is not looking for any JVs to build these reactors and will fund them mostly through Rs 3,000 crore, given to the NPCIL in the annual budget, the official added.