New Delhi (Sputnik) — Despite much hype, construction of the Jaitapur nuclear power plant — an Indo-French joint venture — is unlikely to kick off anytime soon as the project proposal does not fulfill major criteria set by India's Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).
In 2016, Indian authorities had asked the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and French partner Électricité de France S. A. (EDF) to submit detailed information about a reference site (an operational nuclear power plant of equivalent capacity running using the same technology) in order to validate the claims made in their techno-commercial proposals before signing final agreements.
⚡️💥 Certainly taking time for the Jaitapur nuclear plant to get off the ground. Many regulatory and enabling issues still unresolved. French Ambassador expresses the hope that “…the negotiations between the entities of France and Indian governments would conclude by 2018 end.”— Vinayak Chatterjee (@Infra_VinayakCh) March 21, 2018
EDF had identified the Flamanville Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) as the reference site. However, a recent inspection by the French nuclear regulator detected some major faults with the main steam transfer lines of the power plant.
"The ASN Commission has underlined that a significant amount of work remains to be carried out by EDF and Framatome before fuel is loaded into the reactor, in order to justify firstly the fitness for service of the nuclear pressure equipment, and secondly the performance of the safety systems," France's Nuclear Safety Authority (NSA) had said in a statement last month.
The setback received by Flamanville NPP has technically disqualified it as a reference site of EDF, thus raising a question on the ‘Industrial Way Forward Agreement' signed by the firm with Indian partner NPCIL — a state-run enterprise under the Department of Atomic Energy, during French President Emmanuel Macron's visit to India earlier this month.
The prospects of the Jaitapur power plant proposed to be built in India's central state of Maharashtra now hangs in the balance, as without a proven operational nuclear plant using the same technology as the reference site, the Indian atomic regular is unlikely to give its final nod, without which the project stands no chance of commencement.
"The atomic energy department has informed the Prime Minister's Office about the reference plant rule and its inability to get AERB approval as none of the Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR) sited projected as a reference plant have become operational so far," a government source told Sputnik.
Nevertheless, the French ambassador to India has once again expressed the hope about the project and said that construction works may start by end of this year.
Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. #NPCIL, DAE has signed Industrial Way Forward Agreement with Électricité de France S. A. (EDF), France for the implementation of the Jaitapur nuclear power project.— DAE India (@DAEIndia) March 15, 2018
Read More: https://t.co/UQdHQTALbD pic.twitter.com/yrNBrfLWFz
"It is moving forward in a proper direction. We are aiming to start the construction work by the end of this year, which means we are aiming at concluding negotiations (commercial) by then," Alexandre Ziegler, French Ambassador to India told to the PTI on Tuesday.
Informing the Parliament about the present status of the project, Jitendra Singh, India's Minister of State for Atomic Energy, said on Wednesday that the site infrastructure and technology independent site investigation works are in progress at various stages.
"The issues related to rehabilitation are being addressed in association with the State Government. So far out of a total of 2236 landowners, 1844 have accepted the compensation and 1820, the ex gratia payments," Jitendra Singh said.
This is not the only problem before by the Indo-French nuclear venture. There have been sporadic protests by a number of the locals against setting up of the nuclear power plant at Jaitapur. Groups opposed the plant on account of issues related to rehabilitation and apprehensions about the loss of traditional means of livelihood, and safety of the plant. However, the government claimed on the basis of several studies that the project will not adversely affect the agriculture, horticulture, fishing and other traditional means of livelihood pursued by the local people.
India and France had signed an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) on cooperation in nuclear energy in 2008. Since then, several kinds of agreements have been signed between the authorities of India and France with the expectation of construction work starting at the site.