Chavan rules out private participation in nuclear power sector

CHENNAI: Union Minister of State for Science and Technology Prithviraj Chavan on Sunday ruled out private sector participation in the atomic energy sector.

Addressing a press conference at Kalpakkam after taking part in the silver jubilee celebrations of the commissioning of the Fast Breeder Test Reactor, Mr. Chavan said the UPA government had no plans to change the Atomic Energy Act to enable private sector participation in the nuclear power sector. Government companies, such as the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), would continue to build and operate nuclear power stations in the country.

(As the situation stands today, the NPCIL, a public sector undertaking of the Department of Atomic Energy, builds and operates Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors and Light Water Reactors in India. Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited, also of the DAE, builds breeder reactors).

“We are inviting the private sector to come in as minority partners and learn the tricks of the trade,” Mr. Chavan said. But generation of nuclear power was “a complex business” which encompassed difficult disciplines such as waste management, reprocessing of the spent fuel and decommissioning of aged reactors. “Let a future Parliament decide” about amending the Atomic Energy Act, he said.

Mining natural uranium

The Union government was thinking about setting up a company on the lines of the ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) to mine natural uranium abroad. Some models, on the lines of the OVL, were being looked at.

On why the FBTR was never operated to its full power output of 40 MWt (its electricity generation was only 18 MWt), Baldev Raj, Director, Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), said the IGCAR wanted to master sodium technology, mixed plutonium-uranium carbide fuel, materials and instrumentation used in the FBTR. Besides, plutonium was such a precious fuel that it had to be conserved. “Just for the sake of a label,” its power output would not be raised to the full level of 40 MWt, he argued.

The IGCAR, the Nuclear Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and BHEL had signed a memorandum of understanding to design and develop advanced ultra super critical coal-fired electricity generating plants, said Dr. Baldev Raj.

Thermal efficiency

Such plants operated at a high temperature of 700 degrees Celsius. Their thermal efficiency would be 46 per cent more than the traditional coal-fired stations. They would help in conserving coal.

The carbon dioxide emission from these advanced ultra super critical coal-fired power plants would be less.



Executive at India Electron Exchange

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