Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Plan panel pitches for Indo-US nuclear deal

December 18, 2007

New Delhi (PTI): The Planning Commission on Tuesday pitched for the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, saying the agreement will open doors for supply of fuel needed to augment the country's power generation capacity.

"The nuclear deal will remove restrictions on supplies... (otherwise) we will be limited to existing supplies," Deputy Chairman of the Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, told reporters on the eve of the National Development Council (NDC) meeting to discuss the 11th Five-Year Plan.

"We have stated the factual position (in the draft document)," he said when asked to comment on the observations made in the draft document which states that India is making efforts to import nuclear fuel for power plants.

Pointing out that constraints in fuel supplies are affecting performance of nuclear power plants, the document said plant load factor of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd's stations, which increased from 60 per cent in 1995-96 to 82 per cent in 2001-01, came down to 57 per cent in 2006-07.

The document further pointed out that the effect of the proposed deal is likely to be visible in 12th plan period. NPCIL has indicated a capacity addition of about 11,000 MW during the 12th Plan (2012-17).

At present, India's nuclear energy installed capacity is 3,900 MW, which works out to be 3.1 per cent of total power generation capacity. The 11th Plan proposes to increase the nuclear power generation capacity by 3,380 MW during 2007-12, taking up the total installed capacity to 7,280 MW.

Making a case for augmenting nuclear power generation capacity, the document said, "atomic energy is an important source of electric power which has environmental advantages and is also likely to be economical in the longer run."

Obliquely referring to the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, the document added, "it is expected that execution of nuclear projects will also be opened up to enable participation by other PSUs and private sector."

As regards the ongoing nuclear energy programmes, the Plan document said the first 500 MW project based on Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR) technology was likely to be commissioned during the 11th Plan.

Pointing out that FBR technology was critical to development of India's nuclear programme, it said, "without developing the wide-scale use of FBR technology, India would find it difficult to go beyond 10,000 MW nuclear capacity based on indigenous uranium resources."

The ongoing programmes include setting up of Kudankulam project (two units of 1,000 MW each) based on Light Water Reactor (LWR) technology. NPCIL, it added, has also initiated pre-project activities for the expansion of the project with another two units of 1,000 MW each. In addition, NPCIL has undertaken design of 700 MW of pressurised heavy water reactor to enhance the pace of capacity addition.

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