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Cannot put deadline for ratifying India-Japan nuclear deal – Japan’s Envoy

The Emperor of Japan, His Majesty Akihito with the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, in Tokyo, Japan on September 02, 2014.

The India-Japan civil nuclear agreement has been historic as it is Tokyo’s first nuclear deal with a country that is non-signatory to Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty.

India-Japan civil nuclear cooperation is awaiting the endorsement from Diet – the Japanese Parliament, however, Japan’s Envoy to India Kenji Hiramatsu refused to put a deadline to when the Parliament would ratify it.

The approval from the Japan’s Parliament in imperative for New Delhi to operationalise its civil nuclear agreements with the US and France as Japanese firms are suppliers of parts of nuclear reactors. But the Japan’s Ambassador attributed the delay to Parliament procedures and sought ruling out of any “misunderstanding” in the issue.

“…. as I am from the executive side of government, I cannot tell what will happen with parliamentary deliberations. But we hope they will approve it as soon as possible. We have presented it to the current session (that ends on June 1). After the agreement was started in November, the Diet session began with the budget discussion. After that, in March they discuss new laws, and so now that it has been presented in April, it is normal procedure and it means there are no delays. There should be no misunderstanding about that,” Ambassador Hiramatsu told in an interview to the Hindu Business Line newspaper.

The agreement was inked in November 2016, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Japan and seeks to provide energy-starved New Delhi access to clean nuclear technologies.

Underlining the importance of the deal between the two countries, Hiramatsu said: “I do understand that Japan will play a very important role in India’s (nuclear energy) programme, as Japan is involved in construction of many plants around the world. So I do know that India is looking very carefully at this ratification process.”

The Japan’s Ambassador admitted that its firm Toshiba is also observing the developments in the Westinghouse’s ongoing financial difficulties carefully, but conceded that the company does not have much say in the decision making in the issue as they two are “separated”.

“We are watching carefully, what is happening to Westinghouse. They are now restructuring the company under Chapter 11. As soon as they make a decision on nuclear power plants construction, we will know what happens to the agreements that were announced by PM Modi and President Obama last June. Toshiba is also watching very carefully, but they are separated from Westinghouse, so Toshiba isn’t part of the decision making,” Hiramatsu said.

“No-nuclear” is no answer

Vadim Malkin, Managing Partner, Transitional Markets Consultancy LLP. (TMC LLP is a business strategy and communications consulting firm based in London, UK).

Closer to India, recently built Kudankulam NPP, based on the Russian VVER design is generating electricity at a price of ₹42.9/MWh.

The main argument the opponents of nuclear tend now to employ is that nuclear is no longer a commercially viable and competitive source of energy. Overnight construction costs for nuclear new build are apparently on the rise while the costs of renewables, solar in particular, are falling even faster than expected. Thus, they go on claiming that the best strategy is to scrap or at least postpone new nuclear projects to give way “truly” clean, nuclear-free renewable energy.

The argument, although may seem appealing, is flawed.

Math modelling of the future based on extrapolation of the past is almost always misleading unless fundamental drivers behind the trends are properly analyzed and factored in. It is especially the case when past observations are about “apples and oranges”.

First of all, what is compared to what? As an example of how low solar can get they would cite Dubai’s DEWA project (UAE) which won a tender offering to deliver electricity for just US below $30 per MWh. As an example of how high nuclear can climb they would take Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in Britain where the government promised to pay the difference between market electricity price and a strike price of about US $120 per MWh.

The difference is striking, but misleading. Comparing more like-for-like, same country figures gives quite a different picture.

Lightsource, a leading solar developer, has secured for its solar park in Britain recently connected to the grid a strike price of about $108 per MWh. Barakah nuclear power plant in UAE is estimated to produce electricity at a roughly the same price as solar.

Granted, the French technology proposed for Hinkley called EPR is among the most expensive in the world but the main reason for this is that it’s a first-of-a-kind (FOAK) project. Serial construction and the economies of scale make installations about 30% cheaper compared to FOAK.

A recent rise in the cost of nuclear was due to additional safety features making major accidents impossible and a transition to a new generation of designs (many reactors under construction or recently completed are FOAK). In fact, reactors are likely to get cheaper in the coming decades and it is actually what is already happening in Russia or China.

Closer to India, recently built Kudankulam NPP, based on the Russian VVER design is generating electricity at a price of ₹42.9/MWh. Lightsource will receive benchmark tariff support of ₹44.3/MWh and viability gap funding (VGF) of ₹1.96 million/MWe for its solar installation.

Is Solar Really Likely To Get Much Cheaper?

It’s not “natural gravity” that has been driving down the cost of solar and wind over the last five years. Contrary to the common misconception it wasn’t major technology breakthroughs either, though, admittedly, there have been some improvements. In solar the most common polysilicon technology is close to its practical efficiency limit. New technologies are yet to be commercialised.

The main drivers are the economies of scale and, most importantly the aggressive pricing policies by Chinese and Malaysian manufacturers leading to global price wars. When their solar panels began flooding the global market the US and EU even had to introduce anti-dumping measures. It didn’t help much. With a great deal of excess capacity and state support Chinese, Taiwan and Malaysian producers dominate the global market with about 2/3 share while western vendors are struggling to survive.

There are very little economic grounds to suggest that solar prices are likely to tumble even more – thin or negative margins are simply not sustainable. They are expected to stabilise at about 25-35 cents a watt, down merely 20-25% from their current levels.

So, in terms of final price of kWh nuclear solar and on-shore wind are likely to remain in the same range. What makes nuclear indispensable is that solar and wind remain intermittent. They don’t produce energy when there is no wind of sunshine. Even if there is a major breakthrough in energy storage technologies it is highly unlikely that energy storage would add less than US $50-70 now and $25-30 per MWh in the future.

The reports of the death of so-called baseload (demand for uninterrupted available capacity in the grid) have been greatly exaggerated. Demand management and smart meters could increase energy efficiency and level down variability of demand in residential sector but energy intensive industrial users without are doomed without stable and predictable energy supply.

That is why nuclear is actually competing not with intermittent renewables but with coal, which is the most polluting but cheap and reliable, as a source of baseload generation.

It speaks volumes that Germany which is phasing off its nuclear fleet has witnessed its electricity prices up 24% from 2010 to 2014 and CO2 emissions – up 11%. In Japan electricity prices were up 12% (same period), CO2 emissions up 27% which prompted a U-turn with relaunch or reactors in the country last year.

Vadim Malkin, Managing Partner, Transitional Markets Consultancy LLP. (TMC LLP is a business strategy and communications consulting firm based in London, UK).

Westinghouse: India’s gateway to nuclear industry?

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Amidst rising uncertainty over six India’s nuclear reactors after the US-based Westinghouse filed for insolvency in March, a school of thought has emerged advocating takeover of the subsidiary of Japan’s Toshiba by New Delhi to gain entrance to the club of countries with nuclear reactor manufacturing technology.

Founded in 1886 by George Westinghouse, Westinghouse Electric Company has been an industry leader in making nuclear reactors. The company’s prominence can be gauged from the fact that nearly half of the world’s nuclear units were produced by the Westinghouse. Hence, acquiring it would catapult India into being a major player in the global nuclear industry.

The mismanagement of funds and non-repayment of huge debts has put the company on the road to bankruptcy. New Delhi was negotiating a deal with the company to build six nuclear reactors in southern India and the new development made the traditionalists to caution the government against entering the contract. However, the others like Prof WPS Sidhu of Geneva Centre for Security Policy has called the Indian government to take “bold step” by keeping the long-term strategic interests in mind; and advises India to bid for Westinghouse.

Exhorting India to set aside its “short-term financial reasoning” to secure “long-term strategic and economic gains”, Sidhu wrote in his article in the Mint newspaper: “Acquiring Westinghouse would not only secure the six reactors that the company plans to build in India but would also make India a major player in the global nuclear market, competing with a state-of-the-art reactor.” Sidhu suggests that Indian consortium of public and private companies will also be a test case for the public-private partnership model promoted by the Narendra Modi government.

“While the Westinghouse AP1000 was an experimental reactor, which faced numerous teething troubles, most of these have now been resolved, albeit at a heavy cost. The revolutionary prefabricated plants, coupled with existing orders to build reactors in Bulgaria, China, the UK and the US, would make India part of a global nuclear supply chain. This would also strengthen India’s credentials for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG),” Sidhu said while providing further reasoning for the decision.

Acquisition of the company would also provide India a strategic advantage over China that has been developing its own reactors based on versions of AP1000 and has already made one unsuccessful bid for Westinghouse. India’s successful acquisition of Westinghouse will provide it with the necessary lever to make Beijing support its candidature for NSG.

Sidhu opined that bailing out Westinghouse from the financial quagmire will also bring them closer to Trump administration by helping the US in creating thousands of jobs in the US. But the question remains if India will seize the opportunity.

Westinghouse bankruptcy to block India’s road to triple nuclear generating capacity – Financial Express

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Westinghouse bankruptcy is proving to be an impediment for Indian nuclear programme that envisaged to triple its nuclear generating capacity by 2024. The deal with the Westinghouse Electric Company, the US arm for Japan’s Toshiba, to build six nuclear reactors is likely to miss the deadline in June 2017 and India has asked the Japanese firm to suggest a way out.

The $150 billion deal was undergoing advanced techno-commercial negotiations expected to reach its final stages next month, now the Indian establishment has to wait till the company come with “solutions” to meet the deadline. However, the deal hit a roadblock as Westinghouse, a one-time market leader and American giant acquired by Toshiba in 2006, filed for bankruptcy in March this year.

According to an official quoted by the Financial Express: “Though no money has exchanged hands, and with techno-commercial negotiations of the deal at an advanced stage, any delay or even a cancellation from the US-based company will impact India’s target of tripling its nuclear generating capacity by 2024.” The deal would have bolstered India’s nuclear generation capacity by many fold.

The deadline for the deal was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former US President Barack Obama in 2016. A confident India had also allotted a site for a 2,500 MW nuclear power station in Gujarat and identified locations for GE plants in Andhra Pradesh. India is hoping to resolve the situation through a slew of meetings before the impending summer visit of Prime Minister Modi to the US.

Despite the uncertainty India and Westinghouse are continuing the negotiations with US’ Exim Bank for loan of around $8-9 billion to part-fund building of the reactors.

Westinghouse is one of the two US companies selected for building nuclear power reactors in India following the 2008 India-US civil nuclear agreement. Its Indian partner has been the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. The US-based firm has tried assuage the apprehensions in India saying it is not abandoning the bids in the country.

India’s own 700 MW PHWR reactor to undergo trial soon

Building up on its capability to operate over 20 nuclear reactors for half a century now, India is progressing towards its own 700 MW Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) – which is slated for a trial run soon and is expected to go critical later this year.

India’s atomic power plant operator Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) has undertaken construction of 700 MW PHWRs – two each in Gujarat and Rajasthan; and the project is progressing well. The PHWRs have the advantage that they can be refuelled while at full power, making them more efficient.

“Following import of two boiling water reactors (BWR) from the US and two CANDU reactors from Canada, India built pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWR), using its own technology. All these units are performing well,” M.R.Srinivasan, member of Atomic Energy Commission and Founder-Chairman of Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) told nuclearpower.asia. The first nuclear reactor to undergo trial run will be the one at Kakrapar Atomic Power Station (KAPS) in Gujarat.

Two-and-a-half months following the hydro-tests in May-June this year, there will be hot-conditioning of the unit. The systems will be drained and dried before carrying out the fuel loading expected in October this year. Thereafter the reactor will go critical – starting its first nuclear fission process) in November 2017. The unit is estimated to start commercial operations by early next year.

India had got its two boiling water reactors (BWR) from the US and first CANDU or PHWR in 1950s from Canada. Unlike the BWR, the PHWR does not use a single large reactor vessel and the nuclear core is used in hundreds of pressure tubes. These Canadian-built PHWR used natural Uranium (U-235) oxide as fuel and used heavy water (D2O) as moderator. India, however, is seeking to develop a sodium-cooled fast reactor and use Thorium as the fuel.

“India is developing sodium cooled fast reactors for the second stage of the program. In due course of time, India hopes to use thorium as a source of energy for which Uranium 233 produced in second stage reactors would be the starting fuel. In the near term the emphasis will be on building PHWRs and LWRs (Light Water Reactors such as the Russian VVER),” Srinivasan said outlining the vision of India’s nuclear energy development programme.

So far NPCIL has been building 220 MW and 540 MW PHWRs and it is the first time it is attempting to build a 700 MW nuclear reactor. But, Srinivasan contends that India has placed “special emphasis on operator training and strict regulatory oversight to achieve this successful record” and operating its fleet (now numbering 22 reactors) in a safe manner over the past nearly 50 years speaks of its safety records. The project cost of building two units at KAPS is approximately Rs. 11,500 crores but drawing for its experiencing in using coal-based power, India says nuclear power is economically competitive.

“India hopes to expand the nuclear power capacity substantially to reduce carbon emissions. Indian experience indicates that nuclear power is competitive with coal based power, where the power station is located some 800 km from the coal mines,” Srinivasan added.

Russia, India join hands to build Bangladesh’s civil nuclear capabilities

Hack breach at Kudankulam NPP may have gone unnoticed for 6 months: Group-IB

Seeking to shift its energy resource base from fossils to nuclear, Bangladesh will be entering trilateral cooperation with India and Russia to build and gain experience in operating its Russian designed reactors.

The civil nuclear deal between India and Bangladesh in April has paved way for the unprecedented cooperation in South Asia for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The cultural and geographic affinity between India and Bangladesh makes training on nuclear technology an economically viable option for the developing country.

Former Director of Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Shivram Bhoje, while speaking to nuclearpower.asia said: “Russia, India and Bangladesh can cooperate in nuclear power and applications of radioisotopes. Economic development of Bangladesh depends on reliable energy resources available to them. Definitely nuclear power will help in this regard.”

India and Russia are co-signatories to ‘Strategic Vision for Strengthening Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy’ since 2014. The agreement lays down framework for cooperation between the two countries for sourcing materials, equipment and expertise from Indian industry for construction of Russian-designed nuclear reactors in a third country. So, India will join hands with Russia to get the Russian-designed a nuclear power plant in Rooppur (Bangladesh) up and running.

About 160 km from capital city of Dhaka, Rooppur is the site for the two Russian-built VVER pressurised water reactors planned by Bangladesh. Bangladesh seeks to gain from

India’s experience in operating the Russian-built nuclear power plant in Kudankulam (in Tamil Nadu), where it operates 22 units of Russian-built VVERs. The construction of the first unit at Rooppur is expected to commence by the end of this year and is planned to be operational by 2023-24.

The civil nuclear agreement is between the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority and India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and entails sharing of technical information and cooperation in the regulation of nuclear safety and radiation protection. “Training in complicated technology is very essential. Training of Bangladeshi specialists at
Kudankulam NPP in India will be economically beneficial and language wise acceptable,” Bhoje said enumerating the benefits of technology training for Bangladesh’s specialists in India.

Nuclear energy has become imperative for developing countries seeking clean energy for fast-pacing their development. “With the help of nuclear technologies large addition of energy is possible. Developing countries are choosing nuclear energy because it is a large resource, it is a clean energy resource, economically competitive, against the background of limited globally fossil resources,” Bhoje added.

In the long prospective nuclear power opens a possibility of international cooperation and energy independence. The former IGCAR Director avers that low carbon technologies like nuclear power are essential for saving the planet from global warming.

Nuclear Fuel Complex sets new world record of production

The Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC), part of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), on Thursday said it has set a new world record with production of 1512A metric tonnes (MT) of nuclear fuel in 2016-17, surpassing its own record.

NFC in Hyderabad, which produces fuel assemblies required for all the operating nuclear power reactors in the country, became world’s highest producer of nuclear fuel with the production of 1503 MT of pressurised heavy-water reactor (PHWR) fuel bundles during 2015-16.

NFC is the only organisation in the world today having a comprehensive nuclear fuel manufacturing cycle – from ore to core, involving processing of both Uranium and Zirconium streams all under a single roof, it said in a statement.

The organisation made a modest beginning with 100 MT per year Aand went on augmenting it’s capacity to cater to the fuel requirement of all the operating Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) and Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs).

NFC attributed the increased production to process improvement and automation, besides the dedicated efforts by its employees.

It also achieved the highest production of 1154 MT of Zirconium Oxide powder and 759 MT of Zirconium Sponge from its production units at Hyderabad and at Zirconium Complex (ZC), Pazhayakayal to meet the Zircaloy requirements of the PHWRs and BWRs.

The Complex is also engaged in the manufacturing of various Zirconium alloy reactor core structurals for PHWRs and BWRs, apart from manufacture of all the sub-assemblies and special requirement of Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) being set up at Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu.

India organises essay competition on nuclear power

Article writing competition for children was organised at Vijetha Smart School Bhawanipuram, as part of a nation-wide campaign to generate awareness about importance of energy and to dispel the misconceptions related to nuclear energy.

The topic of the competition was’ Nuclear Energy- Nation’s Energy’ and it was organised on behalf of Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL), a Government of India undertaking.

In all, around 187 students participated in the competition. The students’ work was judged by eminent personalities. Karthik of class 8 and Lvanya of class nine won the first and second prizes respectively

The school principal P Rambabu said on the occasion that children’s expressions are an indication of their creativity. The children had portrayed the importance of energy in a very creative manner and had also showed how the production of electricity from nuclear energy does not harm the environment.

He also gave away prizes to the winning students. The judges also appreciated the work of the young students and said this would increase awareness about science and energy.

On this occasion comics based on Budhiya, a fictional character who motivates villagers to support nuclear power, were distributed among the students.

The character has been created by Amritesh Srivastava, Media Manager, NPCIL, and the initiative has won several awards for its simplicity and effectiveness. A special three-part animated film on the same character was also screened.

India to build reactor for utilisation of thorium

Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) has designed Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) for utilisation of Thorium.

This reactor has several passive safety systems and runs on coolant flow by natural circulation. It meets all the post Fukushima requirements and can withstand severe accidents without exposing radiation in the environment. It meets all the safety features of 3rd generation reactors. AHWR design has been reviewed by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has accorded pre-licensing approval. Government of India has given ‘in principle’ approval for constructing AHWR in Tarapur, Maharashtra, said the Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Development of North-Eastern Region (DoNER), MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh in written reply to a question in Lok Sabha today.

The electricity generation from nuclear power in the last two years i.e. 2014-15 and 2015-16 was 37835 Million Units (MUs) and 37456 MUs respectively. The generation in 2014-15 comprised of 35592 MU of commercial generation and 2243 MU of infirm (non commercial) generation, while the entire generation in 2015-16 was commercial.

India to increase nuclear power share with indigenous and foreign cooperation

The share of nuclear power was about 3.2% in India in the year 2016-17 (up to Feb-2017).

During this period, about 34136 Million Units (MUs) of electricity was produced from Nuclear Power Plants against a total of about 1052160 MUs produced in India [Source: Central Electricity Authority (CEA), All India Summary, Issue Date-March 02, 2017]. The share of nuclear power is country-specific and depends on other sources of electricity generation deployed in the country, said the Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Development of North-Eastern Region (DoNER), MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh in a written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha today.

The share of nuclear power in total electricity generation is planned to be progressively increased by addition of nuclear power capacity for which a large expansion programme based on both indigenous technologies and with foreign technical cooperation is planned. In this regard, the Government has taken several enabling steps which include according of “In principle” approval of sites for locating future nuclear reactors based both on indigenous technologies and with foreign technical cooperation; entering into enabling agreements with foreign countries for nuclear cooperation including supply of fuel; amendment of the Atomic Energy Act to enable Joint Ventures of Public Sector Companies to set up nuclear power projects and creation of India Nuclear Insurance Pool (INIP) for resolving issues arising out of Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act, 2010.