Jaitapur clears bureaucratic hurdles

31 December 2013

The project to build the 9900 MWe Jaitapur nuclear power plant in India has cleared some significant procedural hurdles by securing coastal permits and purchasing land.

The Indian parliament has been told "Land has been acquired... statutory environmental and coastal regulation zone clearances have been obtained... and infrastructure works at the site are in progress." This came in a written answer to the Rajya Sabha upper house from the minister of state for personnel, public grievances and pensions V Narayanasamy, who added that "discussions on [the] techno-commercial offer" from Areva "to arrive at a project proposal are continuing."

Areva is negotiating with state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), which is the implementing authority for the project, which would have six pressurized water reactors of 1650 MWe each.

One crucial issue that remains to be settled is the exact liability of the nuclear suppliers under India's extraordinary Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010. Legislation in all other countries directs liability for damage caused by an accident exclusively to the operator of the nuclear plant, up to a certain amount beyond which the government takes responsibility. India's law, however, includes language that could see the supplier of the plant held liable - even after acceptance and many years of oversight by India's nuclear safety regulators. The issue is hugely affected by India's experience of the Bhopal disaster when several thousand people were killed by a chemical leak from a plant owned and operated by a foreign company. All of India's imported reactors would actually be owned and operated by NPCIL.

Since the project details were first discussed with Areva in 2009 the value of the Indian Rupee has fallen by more than 30% against a basket of key international currencies, noted Kameswara Rao, executive director for energy, utilities and mining for consultants PwC India. He said one way to mitigate the change would be to increase the use of Indian suppliers and expertise on the project. Rao explained: "60-70% of the civil [engineering] work is very localised, but even in the structural component there could be a significant localisation."

The project costs also include compensation paid to the farmers who would lose their land to construction, an expanded group due to an Indian regulation which sees all land within 1.5 kilometres of a nuclear power plant taken out of use. According to Narayanasamy, "A comprehensive rehabilitation package including compensation for acquired land and other benefits for 'project affected persons'" agreed by the local Maharashtra state government and NPCIL in 2010, was now "under implementation."

In February, the Maharashtra government announced additional compensation payments of $36,000 for every hectare of land acquired for the project – it is spread over 938 hectares of land near five villages. Narayanasamy said that out of 2336 affected landowners only 1311 have so far collected the money.

The project site - located 350 kilometres south of Mumbai – has also been the target of anti-nuclear protesters who have gained some support amongst local communities but Narayanasamy gave a specific promise in parliament that people would not be forced from their homes for the project.

By Raghavendra Verma and Jeremy Gordon
for World Nuclear News