A Parliamentary Standing Committee Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change has said the Indo-US nuclear deal has not yet resulted in any “new” power projects with foreign assistance and that the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) should, for now, adopt home-grown 700 MW heavy water reactors for its expansion programme.
Signed in 2008, the Indo-US nuclear deal ended India's nuclear pariah status and enabled import of uranium for its power reactors. In 2008, France also signed a deal.
Under the deal signed with US, WestingHouse Co is to build six reactors of 1208 MW each. GE-Hitachi, another US company, is also to build six reactors at Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh.
France's EDF also has to build six reactors of 1650 MW each. The projects with WestingHouse Co and EDF are at the discussion stage.
“The committee is also aware of the fact that apart from helping India acquire badly needed natural uranium from other countries, the Indo-US nuclear agreement has not yet resulted in new commercial projects with foreign assistance,” the panel which submitted its report on Friday said.
The Committee headed by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, also observed that negotiations with American and French companies have been going on for a decade.
“The committee feels that at this point of time it would be better for the DAE to adopt a standardised 700 MW heavy-water reactor and use that standardised design for its expansion programme in an aggressive manner,” the panel added. India has 22 power reactors. Of these two are Boiling Water Reactors (BWR) at Tarapur built with American help in the 1960s, the other two are Russian made Light Water Reactors at Kundakulam.
The rest are Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR) developed by the DAE at a time when India was under sanctions post the 1974 and 1998 Pokhran tests. The government in 2018 gave approval to build 10 new PHWRs.
The Committee expressed hope that the DAE would be in a position to commission the fast breeder reactor at Kalpakkam by the end of 2021. Even though it would have taken almost two decades when commissioning takes place, this is a pioneering initiative of which India can be justifiably proud. It will transform our nuclear energy programme.