India to sell nuclear reactors

By Sriparna   |   Tuesday, 27 February 2007, 06:00 Hrs
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Feb 27: India is on the move to sell its small nuclear reactors to Asian nations like Malaysia and Indonesia once the international embargo on Indian technology ends.

Nuclear Power Corp.'s Chairman, S. K. Jain said that Asian countries like Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia and Cambodia are potential customers for the 220-megawatt pressurized heavy water reactor.

India is negotiating with United Nations to end sanctions that barred nuclear trade with India because of the atomic bomb testing 1974 and 1998. That would free Nuclear Power Corp. to target developing countries that may deploy the smaller reactors developed by India to gain nuclear power at a lower cost.

"We are trying to showcase our ability to supply this technology to a number of countries that want to benefit from nuclear power. It's a matter of how long it will take before the U.S. deal is finalized," Jain said.

India cannot sell reactors before a final agreement on its nuclear accord with the U.S. and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear regulator. That accord would primarily be aimed at allowing India to purchase light-water nuclear power reactors of more than 1,000 megawatts from overseas companies. The Nuclear Suppliers Group, a 45-nation forum dedicated to limiting the spread of atomic weapons, must approve the agreement.

"We are very serious about grabbing the export market,'' Jain said. The company yesterday announced that its third unit of 220 megawatts at Kaiga in the southern Indian state of Karnataka has gone ``critical,'' or is ready to produce power for consumers.

Nuclear Power Corp. will commission a fourth reactor at Kaiga in six months, Jain said. The 220-megawatt third unit, which began producing power yesterday, will sell power to four provinces in southern India, he said. India has 14 220-megawatt reactors.

India is one of the few countries with expertise in smaller reactors, said Sudhinder Thakur, an executive director at Nuclear Power Corp. South Korea and Canada stopped manufacturing the small reactors two decades ago as they were uneconomical for large power grids, Thakur said to a national daily.
Once India gets larger 1,000-megawatt reactors, the 220- megawatt units will be uneconomical for domestic use as well, Thakur said.

Electricity shortages erode almost a 10th of India's gross domestic product, according to the finance ministry. The country turned to overseas nuclear-reactor builders after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh doubled the nation's 2020 capacity target from an initial 20,000 megawatts.

Sanctions were imposed on India after it tested a nuclear weapon in 1974. The test conducted in a desert in western India prompted the formation of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, of which the U.S. is also a member. Another round of tests by India in 1998 led to the U.S. choking trade with India by disallowing the Export-Import Bank and Overseas Private Investment Corp. to guarantee loans for projects in India.
The U.S. removed economic sanctions in 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks to bolster support for its campaign against terrorism.

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