Prime Minister Narendra Modi with French President Emmanuel Macron. (Photo: Twitter/@PMOIndia)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with French President Emmanuel Macron. (Photo: Twitter/@PMOIndia)

India and France have concluded the Industrial Way Forward Agreement between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and French energy giant EDF taking the 2008 Agreement on the Development of Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy forward on the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant in Maharashtra.

The announcement was made in a joint statement after President Emmanuel Macron’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 10. The two leaders reiterated the goal of commencing work on the project by the end of 2018.

In the joint statement issued during the state visit of the France’s President made special mention of the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project as it has been hanging fire after the French energy giant Areva reported financial meltdown. Areva was taken over by EDF last year, but it is yet to arrive at compromise with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL).

“The two leaders reiterated the goal of commencing works at the Jaitapur site around the end of 2018, and encouraged NPCIL and EDF to accelerate the contractual discussions in that respect,” the joint statement read.

Once installed, the Jaitapur project will be the largest nuclear power plant in the world, with a total capacity of 9.6 GW. It will contribute, in addition to renewable energy, to achieving India’s goal of 40 per cent non-fossil energy by 2030. The main bone of contention between NPCIL and EDF has been the pricing of the power units. The two leaders also deliberated upon it. “In this context, they emphasized the need for the project to generate cost-effective electricity; economical and competitive financing package from the French side; reliable, uninterrupted and continued access to guaranteed fuel supply for the lifetime of the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plants; and collaboration on transfer of technology and cost-effective localization efforts of manufacturing in India,” the joint statement emphasised. The localization includes transfer of rights on technology and it needs to be mutually agreed.

During the negotiations with the NPCIL, the French side has also raised concerns about the civil liability regime in India. However, these differences seemed to have been ironed out in the delegation-level talk. “They welcomed the understanding shared by the two parties on the enforcement of India’s rules and regulations on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages applicable to the Jaitapur project,” said the joint statement. The understanding is based on the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act 2010, the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Rules 2011, and compliance of India’s rules and regulations with the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, ratified and notified to the IAEA.

The Government of India has set up Rs 1,500-crore nuclear insurance pool. It was put in place by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) in June 2015 and set up by General Insurance Company and other insurance companies. It provides insurance coverage to operators and suppliers for any nuclear liability towards the third party under the Civil Liability of Nuclear Damage Act, 2010.

The leaders welcomed the regular engagement between their atomic energy organizations and their growing collaboration in mutually beneficial scientific and training activities related to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and particularly the cooperation between CEA/INSTN and DAE/GCNEP. They also appreciated the long-standing relations and continuing interactions between their nuclear regulatory authorities – India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and France’s Autorité de sûretéNucléaire (ASN) – which have facilitated sharing of valuable experiences, best practices and developments related to nuclear safety and regulatory issues.