The pact with France's Areva for the Jaitapur (Maharashtra) nuclear plant shows that a significant milestone in India's quest to rev up nuclear power capacity from 4,000 mw to 62,000 mw in the next two decades has been reached.
The way forward now is timely construction and follow through, so the power plant is functional in just over six years' time.
Initially, Jaitapur would reportedly have 1,650 mw x 2 units of Areva's European Pressurised/Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR) type.
But the plan eventually is to have six such units in place, for a total of 10,000 mw of generation capacity.
However, although EPR is the world's largest power reactor (and the most expensive), there are as yet no operational power stations incorporating the new technology.
Reports say that there are only four EPR plants under construction, one in France, 1 in Finland and two in China, and the Finnish plant, where construction has proceeded the farthest, is already facing considerable time and cost overruns.
So both Nuclear Power Corp of India Ltd (NPCIL), and Areva, which are joining hands for the plant, have their task cut out to streamline project implementation.
NPCIL has had some success in time-bound project completion in its latter vintage plants by standardising equipment design and procurement, including for the latest unit of the 220 mw Kaiga (Karnataka) plant, India's 20th nuclear plant.
Meanwhile, potential foreign vendors have expressed misgivings about the right of recourse against suppliers, granted by the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages law.
The way ahead is notification of liability rules that are as per global norms.
The Jaitapur project would reportedly cost $9.3 billion.
Nuclear power has high upfront costs, but is still economical, given low operational expenses, compared, say, to conventional thermal plants.
Almost 80% of France's power is nuclear based.
Besides, EPR systems envisage improved plant efficiency and safety.
Timely project management is now key to boost the internal rate of return, while hiking much needed base-load power capacity .
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