France's President Emmanuel Macron will visit India in December

Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant has invited quite an interest from experts and commoners alike. The plant, which is planned to be the largest in the world, has faced slew of hiccups ranging from financial meltdown and anti-nuclear power protests. But, with its first EPR Reactor up and running; and its collaboration with GE Power for the execution of the Jaitapur plant, the firm is confident of submitting its bid offer to its Indian counterpart by year end.

Senior Vice President (Development) of New Nuclear Projects and Engineering of EDF Vakisasai Ramany Bala in a written interview to Nuclear Asia talks about the status of the Jaitapur Plant that is one of the important projects to fulfil India’s energy demands.

Read the full interview here:

– During the visit of France’s President Emmanuel Macron it was hoped that the work on Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant will begin by the end of 2018. Is the hope still well-founded? Could you share the present status of the project especially in the light of the strategic agreement between EDF and GE?

– We are satisfied with the current project’s progress. Several major milestones have been reached over the last couple of months. In March we signed an Industrial Way Forward Agreement with NPCIL that defines responsibilities between the different parties and creates suitable conditions for further project development. In the continuation of this agreement, recently we signed a strategic cooperation agreement with GE Power for the design of the conventional island for the Jaitapur nuclear plant.

As indicated during the Industrial Way Forward Agreement Signing in March 2018, EDF is aiming to submit a biding offer to NPCIL by the end of 2018.

– Also, during the Presidential visit the two countries signed a way forward agreement. Could you please elaborate what this agreement really entails as there has not been a precedence of such an agreement?

– The text signed by EDF and its client partner-company, NPCIL, is a key document that represents a significant milestone in the implementation of the project to build six EPRs on the Jaitapur site.

Indeed, this agreement establishes all the parameters needed to move forward, such as the division of responsibilities between the different parties, and the general project organisation. EDF will be responsible for engineering and procurement, NPCIL will be responsible for construction.

EDF will cover all studies and procurement for the first two reactors. For the following reactors, part of the studies and procurement may be localised, in line with the principle of increasing localisation that will be applied throughout the life of the project.

In keeping with the wishes of the Indian government, Indian industry will make a gradual and substantial contribution to building the six EPRs. The contribution of local companies could reach 60 per cent of the contracted volume of work for the last two reactors.

– What have been the irritants between EDF and NPCIL in arriving at an agreement? Have they been ironed out?

– Discussions with NPCIL leading up to this agreement were very constructive. The very fact that we reached this crucial milestone testifies to the quality of cooperation between both companies. This crucial step enabled us to go further and sign a strategic cooperation agreement with GE Power that lays the foundations for a long term partnership concerning the construction of the conventional island* on each of the 6 reactor units.

– GE Power will design the conventional island for the Jaitapur nuclear plant and supply its main components. The company will also provide operational support services and a training programme to respond to the requirements of NPCIL, the Indian owner and operator of the future nuclear power plant currently under discussion. EDF will be responsible for engineering integration covering the entire project (nuclear island, conventional island and auxiliary systems) and will provide all the requisite input data.

– Over the world there has been certain scepticism over nuclear energy as even US President Donald Trump veering away from renewable energy. How would you allay the fears of the sceptics?

– At EDF we believe that nuclear energy has an important role to play in the future energy mix alongside renewables. Competitive, safe and reliable nuclear power enables countries to meet the challenge of fast growing energy demand while reducing their carbon dioxide emissions.

Such is the case of India. India is experiencing intensive growth, which is expected to double the country’s energy needs by 2030. To meet these challenges, India has decided to implement and ambitious energy policy based on a steady increase renewables and nuclear energy. As the world’s leading nuclear operator and European leader in the renewable energy sector, we share this approach. Our company’s ambitions and India’s climate-change action plan are fully aligned with each other.

The EPR is a robust and competitive technology that offers the highest safety standards as well as enhanced environmental performances. It is based upon 30 years of experience in design and operation of pressurized water reactors worldwide. EPR is the only reactor in the world to be licensed in four countries. As the most powerful reactor in the world, it is particularly fitted for countries facing significant and rising energy demand.

– Is nuclear liability in India an issue of concern for EDF and has these concerns been conveyed to the relevant authorities?

– We also feel confident on this matter. There is no sticking point. In 2016, India signed up to the international convention on nuclear civil liability, referred to as CSC. This was a very positive step, making it possible to define suitable contractual terms. Like its partners, EDF needs a liability regime that offers a level of protection equivalent to that in other countries in which we operate.

– The first EPR Reactor has started functioning in China after facing hiccups in France and Finland. Do you think it will give fresh impetus to the Jaitapur project in India considering the Indian government has been emphasizing on a reference plant becoming operational?

– Taishan 1’s (in China) first connection to the grid is a major milestone for EDF and the future of the EPR. Having an EPR reactor in operation is crucial for the decision makers in prospect countries and investors as it transforms our promise into a proof.

It iss the result of close and fruitful cooperation with CGN, which has been our partner in nuclear for 30 years. This experience will now benefit Hinkley Point C: two EPR reactors currently under construction in the UK.

Taishan experience shows that project management can be optimized through experience sharing between the on-going projects. Taishan 1 has greatly benefited from the lessons learnt at Flamanville 3 which has greatly contributed to its success.