As the cost of electricity generation by nuclear power plants, to be set up with the help of French and American companies, is turning out to be on the higher side, the Department of Atomic Energy is in a fix over how to bring down the cost.
On one hand, it is involved in hard negotiations with the companies and on the other hand, sources said, if the cost per unit turns out to be too expensive, then it may not even pursue the project with collaborators. The estimated cost by the DAE for Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant (JNPP) in Maharashtra is around Rs 9 per unit while the cost for Mithi Virdhi nuclear power project is around Rs 12 per unit.
Currently, the DAE is in negotiations with French company Areva to build six EPR reactors of 1650 MW each at Jaitapur. Sources pointed out that initial estimates state the cost of the project to be around Rs 27-30 crore per megawatt and the cost per unit to be around Rs 9 per unit in 2021.
Speaking to reporters in Mumbai last month, R K Sinha, DAE Secretary, had said a competitive per unit tariff of Rs 6.50 has been estimated in the year of completion of Jaitapur project in 2020-21.
In the case of Mithi Virdhi project where American company Westinghouse Electric is providing AP-1000 reactors, the cost per megawatt is coming to around Rs 40 crores while the cost per unit is around Rs 12.
Although this project is yet to reach the advanced negotiations stage, the DAE has already signed an Early Works Agreement with Westinghouse Electric.
The DAE is skeptical about the proposal due to its high cost. It states that the cost per unit from the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) unit 1 and 2 is around Rs 3.50 to Rs 4 per unit.
"If we take inflation into consideration, even then the cost is very high. We are also answerable to people. Plus, there is a lot of opposition to nuclear projects where we have foreign collaborators.
If nothing works out, then we will, perhaps, have to back out because of the high electricity generation cost from the project," a senior DAE official said.