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Indo-French Nuclear Coop eration Strengthened
by Staff Writers
New Delhi, India (SPX) Apr 29, 2015

File image.

Prime Minister Modi's recent visit to France proved fruitful for the much delayed Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant (JNPP) in Maharashtra. The France visit resulted in a break-through signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the French Areva and India's Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL). Areva is supposed to set up six nuclear power plants in Jaitapur.

As India moves forward with its "Make in India" agenda it was evident that even in nuclear energy such a step would be implemented. Not only did the MoU not revive the much delayed nuclear power plant, but in order to live up to the 'Make in India' agenda, India's Larsen and Toubro has also signed a pact with the Areva with agreement to making components in India itself for the six European Pressurized Reactors (EPRs).

This would reduce the cost of the total nuclear power project and also provide India with the technological know-how capability. However, this is not the only time when India has collaborated with France on nuclear cooperation. France and India are already cooperating on a collaborative international project International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) based on tomakak nuclear fusion reactor.

The JNPP project, situated in the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra once commissioned is expected to generate approximately 10000 Megawatt (MW) of electricity and therefore, along with the Tarapore nuclear power plant, a total of 110000 MW of electricity which would give Maharashtra the capability of maximum power generation in the country.

This ambitious project which was signed between France and India in 2010, however, has been saddled with delays in the past due to many reasons. Firstly, the issue of cost effectiveness vis-a- vis the Russian and U.S. offers was a cause to ponder. The Areva quoted a high price per unit which was not acceptable to India since she was looking for cost effective nuclear energy.

Secondly, in the first instance both Areva and NPCIL agreed upon the reference plant which was producing 1430 MW of electricity while Areva later on turned to demand for a reference plant with more power generation capacity, which could produce 1600 MW of electricity. This became the bone of contention since according to the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), "if the technology [more power generating capacity] has been enhanced, even then the reference plant cannot be changed."

This demand from the Areva was also not taken in positive stride by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB. Thirdly, the project was mired in controversy due to political and public resistance to the nuclear power project regarding environmental issues and livelihood of the local population. Local population vehemently opposed the project since they felt that the project would have an adverse effect on their livelihood.

Fourthly, the controversial Nuclear Liability Act 2010 was also a sticking point in the nuclear cooperation. Fifthly, post Fukushima incident in Japan, Areva got entangled in ensuring and reviewing nuclear safety measures.

It is worthwhile mentioning that between 2005 -2015 the NPCIL has done its every bit to educate and inform the local people and the political parties on the nuclear power plant project. The NPCIL has organized various meetings to clear any queries or doubts of the local populations and the political parties regarding the power plant project.

Moreover, the NPCIL also confirmed that the setting up of the power project would "not have any adverse effect on the livelihood of the local population" and also will have "no major impact" on activities like fishing.2 Moreover, the NPCIL also confirmed that the power plant project would provide employment to many people and preference would be given to those who have been affected by the construction of the nuclear plant project.3

However, for Modi who has related nuclear energy as a key source of clean energy has moved forward with the deal despite these hurdles. Nuclear energy does not produce any carbon dioxide or sulphur dioxide which are hazardous for the environment. This nuclear deal would also be a major boost to energy starved India.

The agreement also includes third party export of nuclear technology which means that India could exploit its nuclear technology also for commercial benefits just as it is exploiting its space capabilities for commercial benefits. Nevertheless, it goes without saying that India's ratification of the Additional Protocol of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has proved fruitful for India and provided a boost to its nuclear energy sector.

With growing demand for energy to generate electricity in order to promote development, nuclear energy would remain crucial to India. This is more evident from Maharashtra Chief Minister's remarks on the project in April 2015 post Modi's visit to France that the project will move ahead and would be a crucial step towards generation of power.

Nevertheless, this new cooperation will open several avenues for India to cooperate with France in nuclear technology related matters which include nuclear waste management, developing nuclear proliferation resistant technologies and nuclear safety measures. Lastly, civil nuclear cooperation would be bedrock for enhanced strategic partnership between India and France.

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