EDF Talks on Building Indian Nuclear Plant May Take 3-4 Years

  • Preliminary accord for 6 EPRs in Jaitapur first signed in 2009
  • Project faced questions over liability, concerns from locals

Electricite de France SA, the power company that is buying a majority stake in reactor-builder Areva SA, may take another three to four years to complete talks to build a nuclear power plant in India.

By year-end, the state-owned utility will submit a non-binding offer to build six EPR reactors for Nuclear Power Corp. of India in Jaitapur, Xavier Ursat, head of new nuclear construction at EDF, said Wednesday in Flamanville, western France. The Indian government could finance part of the Jaitapur project alongside other investors, he said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “is really interested in nuclear development,” Ursat said. “It’s possible to imagine that things may be signed in three or four years.”

Areva signed a preliminary accord in 2009 to build six 1,650-megawatt reactors at Jaitapur, a coastal town in India’s western province of Maharashtra. The project has been on hold as Areva sought clarity on India’s nuclear liability laws, and as plans faced opposition from local mango farmers and fisherman, whose safety fears were stoked by the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Japan in 2011.

The U.K. in September approved a $24 billion deal with EDF to build the Hinkley nuclear project after overcoming objections due to high costs. Other prospects for reactor sales include China, where EDF and its partner China General Nuclear Power Corp. are already building two EPR models in Taishan, Ursat said. Talks for the sale of two more EPRs in China would start only once the first EPR in Taishan is commissioned, some time next year, Ursat said.

At the Flamanville reactor complex, EDF is sticking to a target set in September 2015 to complete the EPR construction for a total cost of 10.5 billion euros ($11.2 billion), and to commission the plant in the fourth quarter of 2018, Ursat said. The cost has tripled since construction started in 2007 and the project is six years behind schedule.

Cheaper Model

After reviewing 90 percent of the tests on the Flamanville reactor vessel, which is being investigated by the nuclear safety authority because of potential weaknesses, EDF is “very confident that the vessel of Flamanville-3 will be good for a start-up at the end of 2018,” said Laurent Thieffry, EDF’s head of the project.

EDF is working on the design of a simpler EPR model that would be just as safe but could be built for about 5 billion euros, Ursat said. The first new reactors could be built in France to start replacing EDF’s aging atomic fleet from 2030, he said.

“The goal is to make it cheaper in terms of euros per kilowatt-hour than the cheapest renewable energy that could be built at the same place,” Ursat said.