Plans advance for US reactors in India

14 June 2012

Westinghouse and GE-Hitachi are working towards reaching agreements with Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) for preliminary licensing and site development work for the proposed construction of AP1000 and ESBWR reactors in India.

Westinghouse announced that it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with NPCIL agreeing to negotiate an early works agreement (EWA) for the construction of up to six AP1000 units at the Mithi Virdi site in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat. Westinghouse said that the MoU "represents significant progress toward the realization of the India-US Civil Nuclear Agreement signed in 2008."

Gary Urquhart, vice president and managing director of Westinghouse India, said the agreement would "allow Westinghouse and NPCIL to continue the work necessary for keeping the Mithi Virdi project moving forward."

Mithi Virdi was one of two coastal sites confirmed by the Indian cabinet in September 2009 as being reserved for nuclear power parks of up to eight US-origin reactors each. The other site specified was Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh. GE Hitachi and Westinghouse are in the frame to provide a number of ESBWR or AP1000 reactors on each site.

The start of construction of the first two AP1000 reactors was earlier announced as 2013, with the units starting commercial operation in 2019-2020.

The Indian government had already confirmed that Jaitapur in Maharashtra state is reserved for six French EPR units, while Haripur in West Bengal will house up to eight Russian VVER units.

GE-Hitachi said it has been engaged in commercial discussions with NPCIL since it signed an MoU in 2009. It noted, "Significant progress has been made and another milestone, an early works agreement, is expected to be completed in the near future." The company added that site preparation for at least six Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactors (ESBWRs) is underway near Kovvada.

International trade in nuclear materials and technology with India had previously been severely restricted due to the country's refusal of full-scope safeguards. However, this changed in September 2008 when the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) decided to relax these restrictions for India. This was followed by a flurry of cooperation agreements with India, including one signed with the USA in 2008. However, the supply of foreign reactor technology has been hindered by the amount of money that vendors could be expected to pay in the event of an accident under India's liability laws.

The announcements came as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with India's minister of external affairs S M Krishna in Washington. The pair said they "welcomed progress towards full implementation of the historic Civil Nuclear Initiative." Clinton commented, "I look forward to additional deals involving other leading American companies. And we will work together to ensure these projects are implemented to produce real benefits for citizens and businesses alike."

Krishna added, "I think this should put at rest some of the interpretations and some of the confusion that was prevailing in the immediate aftermath after we signed the nuclear accord. But I'm glad that ... nuclear commerce is now beginning to expand itself and we hope more Indian and American companies will be involved in the course of the coming months."

Meanwhile, France's Areva reportedly hopes to sign a contract for the first two units at Jaitapur by the end of 2012. "If we sign the contract by the year-end, we will target to commission the first reactor by the year 2020 and the second by 2021," Arthur Montalembert, Areva India's chairman, told Dow Jones.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News