Japan nuclear deal delay may hit progress of India's atomic plants

India wants France and the US, which are building nuclear plants in the country, to push Japan to conclude the deal at the earliest so that progress is not hampered

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Japan nuclear deal delay may hit progress of India's atomic plants
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Progress on atomic plants being built in India by France and the United States could be hampered by the delay in India's nuclear deal with Japan, where key components of these plants are manufactured. India now wants these countries to push Japan to conclude the agreement at the earliest.

National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon impressed upon French officials during his visit to Paris last month that France should take up the issue with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe when he travels there in May, sources said. Menon told the French officials that Abe should be persuaded to fast-track the nuclear deal with India, the sources said.

France is building a nuclear plant at Jaitapur in Maharashtra and a number of its components are manufactured by companies based in Japan. Until India and Japan have a nuclear deal in place, these companies cannot provide the components for the plant. Similarly, the US is also proposing to construct a nuclear plant in Mithi Virdi in Gujarat and will require components from Japan-based companies.

For the US and France, their companies – WestingHouse Electric Co, GE Electric and Areva – are building reactor for Indian nuclear power plants. The technology used by these companies requires equipment that could be sourced from Japan. For India, nuclear cooperation deal with France will open a range of avenues in the field of nuclear energy and cooperation.

As the nuclear deal with Japan and India could not be signed during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's recent visit to Delhi last month, sources point out that this could have an impact on the progress of two upcoming nuclear power plant projects in India. 

On the immediate basis, this may have an impact on Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant (JNPP). "Once this is signed, it will surely be beneficial for all the nuclear reactor suppliers including Areva," said a senior official from the French company . "We have not started the work on Jaitapur, so it won't hurt the project on immediate basis. This will however, help determine the project cost," the official said.

The price per unit for the JNPP will come to more than Rs 9 in 2021, which, according to the DAE is very high. The initial capital cost for the project per MW is between Rs 27-30 crore. The cost per unit for the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant Project (KKNPP) unit I and II is between Rs 3.50 and Rs 4. The cost for the KKNPP III and IV is also under negotiation.

The company is building six EPR reactors, each with a capacity of 1650 MW of nuclear power for JNPP in Ratnagiri, a coastal district of Maharashtra. As of now, the project is expected to be the highest nuclear power generation plant in the country with a capacity of 9900 MW.

Another project which could be hampered because of deal not getting would be the Mithi Virdhi plant in Gujarat where Westinghouse Electric Co is providing AP-1000 reactors, sources said. This project is, however, in the initial stages and preliminary study is being conducted. 

The Indo-Japan nuclear deal is stuck for various reasons. After the Fukushima Daichi plant incident in Japan, the domestic opinion about nuclear power has gone against nuclear plants. Also, Japan is wary as India has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Formal negotiations for a civil nuclear deal with Japan started in Tokyo in June 2010. These were followed by two consecutive rounds in October 2010 (Delhi) and November 2010 (Tokyo). However, India slowed the pace of negotiations in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident in March 2011. The last round of talks was held in November 2013.

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