Westinghouse Electric in talks to build 6 nuclear reactors in India

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The Indian government is currently engaged in techno-commercial discussions with the US-based Westinghouse Electric Company to finalise a project proposal for setting up six nuclear power reactors with a capacity of 1208 MW each at Kovvada in the state of Andhra Pradesh. This information was conveyed earlier this week to India’s Parliament in a written reply by the Atomic Energy Minister Jitendra Singh.

“On finalization of proposal it will be put to the government of India for accord of administrative approval and financial sanction. Subsequent activities will be scheduled after accord of project sanction,” Singh said in response in a query posed by a member of the Lower House. The Minister also said that the cost estimates and timelines for the construction are yet to be worked out and would emerge on conclusion of discussions with the company and finalisation of the project proposal.

Regarding the progress of land acquisition for the project at Kovvada in the Srikakulam district of the southern state, Singh said: “Of the 2079.79 acres of land being acquired for setting up the project, mutation of 2061.1 acres of land in the name of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) has been completed by the state authorities. Work is in progress for the balance land.”

Elaborating on the process of land acquisition, which has historically been a controversial issue in India, the Minister said that as per the country’s Right to Fair Compensation And Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation And Resettlement Act, 2013, a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) was carried out and a public hearing was held for all the affected villages, including people from the local community.”The concerns (local community) have mainly been on account of issues related to rehabilitation, apprehensions about safety of the plant and loss of traditional means of livelihood,” Singh said.

Given the need to spread public awareness on an ongoing basis on the benefits of nuclear power and dispel misconceptions about this clean source of energy that can meet the grid’s base load requirements, the Minister said that the operator NPCIL is engaged in a large public outreach programme having a multi-pronged approach “to spread awareness about nuclear power, address the apprehensions of the people to allay their concerns in a simple, understandable and credible manner.”

Previous parent company, Toshiba of Japan, sold off Westinghouse Electric after it suffered major losses on account of nuclear reactor construction projects, while the latter was acquired in 2018 by Canadian firm Brookfield Business Partners, which is the majority owner of Westinghouse.

In response to another query by a member of the Lower House, Singh said that the government has given “in-principle” approval for 5 new sites for locating nuclear power plants (NPPs) in the future. These sites were, however, not named in the Minister’s reply.

Singh also informed Parliament that the government has granted administrative approval and financial sanction for construction of 12 more nuclear power reactors, of which 10 are for indigenously built Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) of 700 MW capacity each, as well as for 2 Light Water Reactors (LWRs) to be set up in cooperation with the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom.

Currently, 8 reactors are under construction in the country with a combined capacity of 6,200 MW. On completion of these under construction, NPCIL’s capacity will reach 12,980 MW by 2025. India’s current nuclear power capacity is expected to increase to 22,480 MW by 2031 on the completion of these proposed projects. Two Russian-made VVER units of 1,000 MW capacity each are currently operating at the Kudankulam NPP in Tamil Nadu state, where 4 more VVER-1000 units are under construction. As per an intergovernmental agreement, Rosatom will also help construct 6 more units in India at another location.

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