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 are likely to sign a framework agreement for expediting the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant project during French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit next month, sources from the Indian side have said.

The six-reactor project with a capacity of 1650-MW each will be the largest nuclear power plant in the country. Talks between the two countries are on to decide the terms of the agreement, the French side added.

However, it may not be a General Framework Agreement (GFA), which lays down the details like the cost and technical aspects of the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant, that will be built in the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra.

“An agreement is expected to be signed between French company EDF and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL- a nuclear power-generating PSU under the Department of Atomic Energy). But it may not be a final General Framework Agreement. Both sides are yet to finalise crucial aspects of the project,” said an Indian government official requesting anonymity.

The agreement could be on how to expedite the project.

The Indian official added that the two countries are yet to decide on several important aspects like terms of credit, which the EDF will give to the NPCIL, and the techno-commercial aspect, that includes cost per unit.

The EDF will be building six European Power Reactors in Jaitapur but the reference plant to be shown by the company is not yet operational. It is mandatory that the EDF presents a reference plant before a deal could be signed.

Such a plant is also required before getting a nod from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AREB), the nuclear watchdog in India, sources said.

More importantly, the EDF is facing financial problems and the Indian atomic energy establishment is not keen to sign a GFA until that part is sorted out, they said.

Sources also said the French side is seeking an assurance over the liability clauses under the Civil Liability Nuclear Damage Act 2010.

“President Macron will be here in another 20 days or so. Jaitapur is a big opportunity for us and it would definitely be on the agenda as President Macron meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Jaitapur Deputy Director & Head of EDF Mumbai Liaison Office Dr Fawzi Issa told Nuclear Asia on the sidelines of Nuclear Energy World Expo 2018 in Mumbai. Dr. Issa has been relocated to Mumbai to ensure local coordination with various stakeholders.

Dr Issa elaborated more about the requirement of the supply chain for the Jaitapur plant. “For instance we need 150 heat exchangers, 500 pumps and 12,000 valves. We need to have robust localisation. From our experience in China we can say it is important,” Dr Issa added. He said that the EDF will be following a four step procurement procedure that includes “sourcing, pre-selection, pre-qualified and procurement”. The procedure can take up to two years.

“EPR is based on French technology so it is important that local supply chain has to be compatible to us,” the Jaitapur director added. EDF intends to have 30-40 per cent indigenous component at the initial stage and it is likely to be around 50-60 per cent as the project ends.

Dr. Issa categorically ruled out third party involvement in the procurement. He said that the nuclear reactor has three important parts – design, operation and equipment manufacturing. “You operate better if you are involved in the design stage itself…. We are not going to just buy things of the shelf. During manufacturing also we would need our experts to go to the site,” Dr Issa said while elaborating the quality control measures.