Indian manufacturer looks outwards

16 July 2008

Larsen & Toubro (L&T) seems ready to increase its capacity for domestic and international nuclear forging contracts. Its future entry into the nuclear component market would further reduce what had previously been considered a bottleneck in the supply chain.


Large component manufacture (OMZ) 
Nuclear components for Russian-design
reactors at an OMZ facility (Image: OMZ)
L&T was reported yesterday to be in talks with Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) over a possible $463 million venture in nuclear forgings. The Bloomberg report, which was based on a telephone interview with Sudhinder Thakur of NPCIL, said discussions on a venture had been going on during recent months.


An L&T spokesman would not substantiate the report to World Nuclear News, but noted that "positive signs are on the horizon" while the "nuclear deal is on the anvil." This refers to international action surrounding the US-India nuclear cooperation deal, which should ultimately result in India enjoying trade with a range of other nations for the first time since 1970. India's safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency will be put before the agency's board on 1 August, and the change in trade arrangements is expected to follow before the end of the year.


With India isolated in terms of trade, the country's engineers had to design and produce nuclear power plant components alone. In that environment L&T produced components for pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs) at Rajastan, Madras, Kalpakkam, Narora, Kakrapar, Kaiga and Tarpur: a total of 17 reactors. It has also secured contracts for 80% of the components for the forthcoming fast breeder reactor at Kalpakkam. The company has a 90,000 square metre workshop and can produce control rod drive mechanisms, steam generators, valves and reactor pressure vessels. It can also undertake engineering, procurement and construction contracts on new nuclear power reactors.


In June last year, L&T received authorization to use the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' (ASME's) N-stamp to fabricate nuclear-grade pressure vessels and core support structures. It is allowed to use the stamp, which is an internationally recognised quality standard, on products assembled at its Powai campus in Mumbai.


Supply chain impact?


The possible future entry of L&T into an international market for nuclear components would further relieve what was previously described as a bottleneck in the nuclear supply chain. While Japan Steel Works is still seen as the leading large forging manufacturer, several other firms also compete.


OMZ of Russia and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan are both doubling capacity to produce large components, while Sheffield Forgemasters of the UK is considering installing a nuclear-capable forge. In France, capabilities will expand at the Cruesot Forge, which is owned by an Areva subsidiary. Doosan Heavy Industries of Korea can produce the parts and is supplying reactor pressure vessels to China for the two AP1000s beginning construction, although Chinese planners are sure to develop domestic capacity for their needs at least. The inevitable entry of an alternative India-based supplier will add further choice for reactor buyers.