India Said to Explore New Sites for Building Nuclear Projects

  • Nuclear plant in Haryana state seen ready in 5 years: Official
  • State firms, including ONGC said keen to invest in nuclear

India is exploring new locations, in addition to those already identified, to build nuclear power plants and meet its generation goal, a government official with direct knowledge of the matter said.

The nation has had to back out from a couple of sites in the past because of opposition from the local population and is now looking at regions, including those away from the sea, to supplement the existing list, the official said without elaborating. He asked not to be named as the plans aren’t public yet.

India’s plans to expand its nuclear generation capacity more than ten-fold have been hampered by delays in construction due to protests by the local population and suppliers’ concern over a liability law. The law, which allows for claims from companies setting up the plant, has discouraged reactor suppliers from General Electric Co. to Toshiba Corp.-controlled Westinghouse Electric Co.

Toshiba said last month unit Westinghouse’s plan to set up six reactors in India are contingent on a change in the nuclear liability law. It will no longer take up the risk of building new nuclear plants and instead specialize in supplying parts and reactor engineering, the company said following a $6.3 billion write-down.

India is awaiting an official communication from Westinghouse on its plans in the country, the government official said, declining to comment further.

Westinghouse had earlier expected to sell six AP1000 reactors of 1,150 megawatts each for a project in Andhra Pradesh by end of 2016. It is part of India’s plan to expand nuclear generation capacity to 63 gigawatts by 2032 from 5.8 gigawatts now. The project can still go ahead with Westinghouse supplying the reactor design and a different company taking up the construction, Sekhar Basu, secretary at India’s Department of Atomic Energy, said last month.

Meanwhile, the government is going ahead with domestic projects and a new plant in the northern state of Haryana is expected to be commissioned in five years, the official said. Some of the nation’s state companies, including explorer Oil & Natural Gas Corp. Ltd., are willing to partner state monopoly Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd. for future projects.

ONGC’s Chairman D.K. Sarraf said his company is exploring opportunities in nuclear, but doesn’t have a ready plan yet. Nuclear Power Corp.’s spokesman N. Nagaich didn’t immediately respond to requests for a comment.

— With assistance by Debjit Chakraborty

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