Move to import light water reactors opposed in India

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Old 04-Apr-2011
Move to import light water reactors opposed in India

UNP ImageNew Delhi: A former chief of India's atomic energy regulator yesterday opposed the central government's move to import light water reactors (LWRs) in the next two decades, saying it was not justified technically or economically.

The former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) Dr A. Gopalakrishnan said India had demonstrated its expertise to design, build and operate 17 pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) up to 540 MW capacity.

Besides, with four 700 MW PHWR construction projects in hand, there was no reason for India to diversify its nuclear fleet to include new types of foreign reactors with which the Indians were not familiar.

Noting that the reason for bringing imported reactors was neither technology driven nor for the economic benefit of the country, the former AERB chief said the Indian PHWRs were more efficient plutonium producers, far superior than the high burn-up LWRs, which the Department of Atomic Energy was planning to import.

"We have complete mastery of PHWR technology, and three generations of engineers and scientists have been trained in all facets of related activities, with full capabilities for its manufacture and fabrication in India."

Gopalakrishnan said a 700 MW PHWR could be built with just $1.8 million per MW, whereas the 1,650 MW French evolutionary pressurised reactors (EPR) at Jaitapur cost over $4.7 million per MW.

He said that after 2004, the US had been pushing hard for a strategic alliance with India.

Indigenous programme

He added that the American objectives included bringing India's PHWRs under International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) safeguards and reviving the moribund US nuclear industry by selling American-designed reactors to India, apart from slowing down and eventually stopping India's indigenous nuclear programme.

"Throughout the deliberations on the Indo-US nuclear deal, the AERB was not consulted on the safety and reliability of reactors to be imported. Parliament and the people were also deliberately kept in the dark," he said.

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