India Inc sets eyes on $50-bn nuclear energy market

Eyeing the $50 billion (approximately Rs.2,000 billion) potential seen in India's nuclear energy sector over the next 10-15 years, apex industry chambers have begun to lobby with the government to permit private sector entry in the industry, days after a historic global decision to end the country's decades-old nuclear isolation."As many as 40 Indian companies have already started talks with the government to allow the private sector into nuclear power generation," Venugopal Dhoot, chairman of white goods to energy major Videocon Group, told reporters.
"This is a huge business opportunity for India as power is a booming sector that requires maximum investment in the near future," said Dhoot, the past president of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham).
He said Videocon, Tata Power and Jindal Power are among the 40 or so corporates negotiating joint ventures with their foreign counterparts for nuclear power generation. "We are already talking to the government to allow private players in this sector," Dhoot added.His comment came after the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) met in Vienna last week and decided to end more than three decades of nuclear isolation of India, after three days of intense diplomacy by the US and Indian diplomats.Assocham, that recently conducted a survey among top 300 chief executives officers in India, also says that 400 firms - domestic and international - may get a chance to build nuclear power plants.An overwhelming 85 percent of the 300 chief executives polled held the view that modifications to India's Atomic Energy Act of 1962 could help the country generate some 20,000 MWe (unit of nuclear power) by 2020.
The modification - which the chamber suggested should be immediate by way of a presidential notification - is necessary to facilitate the entry of the private sector in nuclear power generation.
The Act and the decades of India's nuclear isolation had resulted in capping the country's nuclear power generation capacities to an extent of just 3,900 MWe in over 60 years of independence.
As a result, out of a total installed generation capacity of about 145,000 MW of electricity, 70 percent is accounted for through thermal fuel and 20 percent by hydro, with nuclear energy contributing just two percent.The remaining capacities come by tapping the various sources of non-conventional energy such as solar, wind, biomass and tidal waves.
"The go-ahead to the nuclear deal will signal the building of scores of nuclear plants in India on assured fuel supply," said Amit Mitra, secretary general of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci)."This will trigger the participation of 200 firms with capabilities to operate, and maintain nuclear plants - but put on the Entities List by the US in 2005 for perceived possession of technologies for nuclear plants or dual-use technology."That list has since been pruned to about four, giving the 200-odd companies full play in nuclear power production.
"We expect another 200 medium and small firms to get into the act as ancillary producers to the big companies, thereby giving a new direction to efficient and cheaper power production in the country," Mitra added.
Chandrajit Banerjee, director general of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), said the NSG waiver could see some 18-20 nuclear reactors come up in India at a cost of around $1.25 billion (Rs.50 billion) each."It will provide opportunity for Indian manufacturers to supply spares and components to the global manufacturers of nuclear power plants besides providing business opportunities for Indian power plant construction companies."

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