Indian law change essential for nuclear growth

12 November 2009

The Indian government must move to allow private investment in nuclear generation as a matter of urgency, according to the country's Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham). Meanwhile, Russia looks set to sign contracts to build two new units in India by the end of the year. 


Kudankulam (ASE)
Kudankulam (Image: ASE)
India's international nuclear isolation was effectively ended a year ago with a decision by the international Nuclear Suppliers Group to allow the country to participate in the trade of nuclear energy-related materials and equipment despite not having a full-scope safeguards agreement in common with signatories of the international nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). However, at the national level, laws still prevent private sector participation in nuclear power generation and this, says Assocham, must change if the country is to avoid further power shortages.

Now, Assocham president Swati Piramal has asked the country's power ministry to remedy the situation. "Private sector participation in nuclear power generation is still prohibited on account of necessary amendments to Atomic Energy Act of 1962," she said in a communication to the country's power ministry. According to Assocham, up to 40 leading private sector power utilities have "conclusive" plans to diversify into nuclear power, but cannot put their plans into action without amendments to the existing act. 

Earlier this month India's largest company, India Oil Corporation, joined the ranks of Indian businesses which have shown an interest in nuclear involvement, including Tata Power, Jindal, GKR Power, GMR Energy and Reliance Power, when it signed a memorandum of understanding with Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL). Without a change in the legislation, such expressions of intent will not be able to progress beyond an initial agreement.

Describing nuclear energy as "the need of the hour", Assocham urged the government to amend the Atomic Energy Act and enable the country to move towards adding a minimum of 20,000 MWe nuclear capacity by 2020.

Kudankulam contracts by year end?

Meanwhile, Russian deputy prime minister Sergei Sobyanin has said that documents for the construction of the next two Kudanukulam reactors will be signed by the end of the year. Speaking during a visit to the Kudankulam site, where two Russian VVER pressurised water reactors are nearing completion, Sobyanin said that first concrete for the third Kudankulam unit could be poured by the end of 2010. A total of six VVERs are ultimately planned for Kudankulam, in Tamil Nadu province. India has also set aside land for a further four VVERs at Haripur in West Bengal.

Sobyanin was accompanied on his visit by Rosatom director general Sergei Kiryenko.