Facing huge power needs, the Indian government is planning to set up new nuclear power plants and studying new locations, notably in Bihar, Haryana and Punjab, to triple in the next 10 years its nuclear power generation base. A huge market where international companies, notably US, Russian, Japanese and French ones, have already set a foot.
The Indian government has announced that new locations are considered to set up new nuclear power plants, to meet the escalating energy demand of an economy growing at a yearly rate of more than 7%.
The goal is to triple in 10 years the country’s nuclear power generation capacity, from 4,780 MW (Megawatts) now to 13,480 MW, explained on Wednesday Union Minister Jitendra Singh in the Lok Sabha, the lower Chamber of Parliament, during a questions session.
He added that the government was studying new locations for nuclear plants, like in Razauli, in the Nawada district of the State of Bihar, that has been spotted for a year and half now but where some water shortage issues have to be solved.
Other locations contemplated include Bulandshahr (Uttar Pradesh), Patiala (Punjab), Dehradun (Uttarakhand) and some sites in Haryana, according to M. Singh.
In the meantime, India is also ramping up existing projects, such the Kudankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu, whose second unit will be operational in May, after the first one, ready since last January.
In the 2016 Indian Budget, INR 3,000 crore (3 billion euros) per year were allocated to the nuclear sector.
“In the power sector, we need to diversify the sources of power generation for long term stability. Government is drawing up a comprehensive plan, spanning next 15 to 20 years, to augment the investment in nuclear power generation”, said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, during the presentation of the 2016 Budget on Monday.
Advocates of new nuclear plants say India has no choice but to bet on this source of energy, to avoid relying too much on heavy polluting fossil energies, such as coal and gas, in a transition phase towards renewable energies. But environmental think tanks like the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in Delhi underline potential risks linked to nuclear energy and consider a must to first develop green sources such as solar or wind power in the energy mix.
India has a mainly indigenous nuclear power programme and aims at getting a quarter of its electricity supply from nuclear power by 2050.
Public companies Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd ( NPCIL) and Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd (BHAVINI) are currently setting up nuclear power plants in India. Under the Atomic Energy Act, passed in 1962, private players can participate in the process as minority equity partners of a State company.
Foreign companies from countries like the USA, Russia, Japan, Canada or France are also taking part in this nuclear programme. French company Areva has for instance signed in 2009 a Memorandum of Understanding with NPCIL to deliver up to 6 EPR type nuclear reactors in Jaitapur, in the State of Maharashtra, and to ensure the fuel supply for 25 years.