Foreign players, barring Russia, still to find foothold in Indian nuclear power market


It was almost a decade prior that India’s nuclear isolation ended with the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Agreement, but even now only one project under foreign collaboration has seen the light of the day. Two major projects with the US and French firms have been hanging fire with not even a concrete agreement with Indian Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) in sight.

However, by the year end French major EDF hopes to submit its bid offer to NPCIL and the US firm Westinghouse expects to emerge from its bankruptcy; and Russia’s state corporation Rosatom is looking forward to the construction on the units 3 & 4 of Kudankulam nuclear power plant. Westinghouse and EDF are planning to focus on supplying the nuclear reactor and other equipment while handing over the responsibility of construction to its Indian counterparts. Rosatom will also be seeking more localisation in the upcoming units of Kudankulam plant.

The proposed Jaitapur Power Plant in Maharashtra in collaboration with EDF is planned to be the largest nuclear power plant in the world with the total capacity of 9.6 GW. However, with French energy giant Areva facing financial meltdown, the project had ran into uncertainty. Areva was taken over by EDF in 2017 and since then negotiations have been going on with the NPCIL to work out a way forward.

Senior Vice President (Development) of New Nuclear Projects and Engineering of EDF Vakisasai Ramany Bala told Nuclear Asia: “We are satisfied with the current project’s progress. Several major milestones have been reached over the last couple of months.… 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.”

The Industrial Way Forward Agreement with NPCIL “defines responsibilities between the different parties and creates suitable conditions for further project development”. Under the agreement, 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,” Bala added. In total six EPRs will be constructed at Jaitapur.

The negotiations with the Toshiba-Westinghouse for six reactors at the estimate cost of USD 20 billion had begun in in 2009. But, it also hit a road-block as Westinghouse declared bankruptcy in 2017. Following this, Westinghouse was acquired by a Canadian consortium in a USD 4.6 billion deal. The proceedings under the Chapter 11 of Bankruptcy Code are expected to be over by early next year.

Meanwhile, the US firm battling its financial woes, is taking a leaf from the Russian model that has been the only successful one in the country. Pinning its financial problems to its construction arm, the company has decided that Westinghouse will provide reactors while outsourcing the construction. US Energy Secretary, Rick Perry, had told journalists during his India visit: “Westinghouse is not in the construction business. And that is where these projects got into trouble previously was in the construction side of these projects. Westinghouse and their expertise is in reactors…. We’ll leave it to you to decide who the constructors are going to be.”

The commercial contract between the NPCIL and Westinghouse will only be signed after the bankruptcy proceedings are over.

The only foreign player that has been successful in setting up a nuclear power plant in India has been the Russian State Corporation – Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation. The Units 1 & 2 of Kudankulam have been completed and first concrete pour for Units 3 was done in 2017. The Units 3 and 4 Reactor buildings foundation slabs have already been made. The construction according to Rosatom is on schedule.

“The delivery of equipment has already started. In March 2018 the first batch of equipment for turbine building of Unit 3 of Kudankulam NPP was completed and shipped out. Particularly, the first two high pressure heaters (HPH) were dispatched for turbine building of KKNPP. Also the reactor pressure vessel for KKNPP Unit 3 will be delivered by the end of the current year followed by KKNPP Unit 4 that will be completed next year,” Andrey Shevlyakov, CEO of Rosatom South Asia told Nuclear Asia.

Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, one of the largest in India, is located in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu and is constructed within the scope of the Russia-India Inter-Governmental Agreement. There had been reports of delays in supply of equipment and materials that resulted in the cost overruns in the project. The CEO of Rosatom South Asia, however, said that lessons have been taken from the construction of the first two units. “Now, everything is sorted out and we are hopeful to deliver everything on time. While the supply of the equipment for the Unit 3 of Kudankulam NPP is likely to start by the end of this year, we are hopeful of finishing it for Unit 4 by the end of 2019. With that, we would be done with our part of commitment for these two units.

Manufacturing of the equipment is on schedule and we hope to complete it on time, while quality and safety remain our priorities,” Shevlyakov added.

One of the main reasons behind Russia’s success in assisting India has been the closer ties between the two countries. The Civil Nuclear Agreement between India and Russia makes a major departure as far as agreements with other countries are concerned as it does not have a termination clause, should India test a nuclear weapon.