Govt to invest Rs 87,000 cr on nuke projects

Despite strained government finances, the next five years could see a record spend in ramping up the country's atomic power capacity. The Centre's nuclear investment proposed for the Twelfth Plan (April 1 2012-March 31, 2017) envisages a cumulative investment of close to Rs 87,000 crore, the highest spend ever on beefing up atomic generation capacity.

Of this, about Rs 64,800 crore is to be spent on new starts, which largely entail imported light-water, reactor-based projects to be set up with equipment supplies from global vendors such as France's Areva, US firms GE-Hitachi and Toshiba-Westinghouse and Russia's Atomstroyexport.

Higher spending on the nuclear sector comes at a time when new thermal projects face tardy progress in the wake of fuel supply woes.

Currently, there are 20 nuclear reactors being operated by state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) that add up to a capacity of 4,780 MWe (mega-watt electrical). The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) plans to ramp this up to 10,080 MWe by the year 2017 and 14,580 MWe by 2020-21.

NPCIL which has a surplus of Rs 12,000 crore, including cash reserves has said that it funds new capacity of up to 10,000 MWe through its own financial resources and is looking for financing from other sources, including through joint ventures with core sector PSUs with strong financials and cash flows such as NTPC Ltd, Indian Oil Corporation, Nalco and ONGC. The remaining could come by way of budgetary allocation or long-term credit from lenders.

Progress is expected despite several nuclear projects, including the Kudankulam units in Tamil Nadu and the proposed Jaitapur project in Maharashtra, facing strong protests from locals and activists. The end to the Kudankulam stalemate is seen a positive signal for new projects on the anvil.

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