India's reactor building has progressed only with Russia: Expert

The Indian reactor building program has not gone off well except for the cooperation with Russia, while the rising cost of nuclear technology has been a key factor in this situation, according to a New Delhi based expert.

Nuclear Asia spoke to Jawaharlal Nehru University’s (JNU) Emeritus Professor of Theoretical Physics R. Rajaraman for an overview on the occasion of US President Donald Trump’s India visit, considering that the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Agreement in 2005 paved the way for the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver in 2008 allowing the country to access civil nuclear technology and fuel from other countries.

According to Professor Rajaraman, the advantage with India’s nuclear cooperation with Russia is based on the fact that the commerce is carried out between state-run companies – Rosatom and NPCIL – while in the case of other countries it is with private firms like the US-based Westinghouse and Areva of France, which have been facing acute financial issues. Rosatom is constructing the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) in Tamil Nadu state.

Noting that only around three to four companies worldwide are in the reactor construction business, Rajaraman pointed out that Areva has been facing costly delays in the construction of its third generation EPR reactor projects that began over a decade ago.

It is on the front of getting its uranium supplies from overseas that the NSG waiver has proved beneficial for India, with agreements that have been signed with other supplier countries, Rajaraman said.

On the other hand, India’s civil nuclear liability law has also proved to be a hurdle in the faster construction of reactors, which has been overcome in the Russian case helped by the historical convergence of bilateral strategic interests, he added.

The overall context, however, is the rising cost of building reactors, Rajaraman said, pointing out how reactor building worldwide has been falling for some time and that the construction of four reactors by Westinghouse in the US has stalled due to the company’s current financial stress.

The professor said that the increasing costs of nuclear technology in the US has had the effect of dampening the market worldwide.

Among the countries, only China remains “gung ho” in implementing its reactor program and is going ahead fast in this direction. Rajaraman concluded by saying that a way future way forward in neutralizing the cost effect of building reactors could be through compensating entities with carbon credits earned via the use of this clean technology.