India Rules Out GE Reactors without reference plant

2 July 2016

India won't buy GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy reactors that have not yet been used in NPPs, Sekhar Basu, secretary at India's Department of Atomic Energy told Bloomberg. "Right now they have offered us reactors that do not have a reference plant", he said. "We will not buy a reactor that doesn't have a reference plant." GE Hitachi has signed an accord to supply reactors for a NPP at Kovvada in India's southern state of Andhra Pradesh. India also has agreements with Westinghouse Electric Co, Electricite de France (EDF) and Russia's Atomstroyexport (part of state nuclear corporation Rosatom) to buy reactors.

To date only Russia has built any plants - two units at Kudankulam with two more under construction and a further two planned. Reference plants for Westinghouse's AP1000 reactors and EDF's EPR pressurized-water reactors - both planned for India - should be ready by the time the two companies start construction, Basu said.

GE Hitachi Nuclear is a venture between General Electric Co and Hitachi Ltd.

Last year General Electric Chairman Jeffrey Immelt said the company would not risk building a plant in India, citing India's nuclear liability law, which exposes equipment suppliers to claims and litigation if there is an accident. Westinghouse and EDF have taken a similar position. However, India recently introduced an insurance scheme which answered most of their concerns.

"GE Hitachi continues to have a strong interest in providing our technology to India for the eventual construction of multiple" economic simplified boiling-water reactors, or ESBWRs, the company said in an e-mailed statement to Bloomberg. "We believe the path forward requires a sustainable regulatory environment, which would include a nuclear-liability law that channels liability to plant operators consistent with global best practices."

Earlier this year, India ratified the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, or the CSC, a global treaty on nuclear liability, responding to demands from the global reactor suppliers. EDF plans to build a plant in the western state of Maharashtra while Westinghouse is expected to use a site in Andhra Pradesh, after the original location in the western state of Gujarat faced local opposition. However, the change in location for the Westinghouse plant isn't finalized, Basu said. "We will announce it when it's decided," he added. "If GE backs out, it is possible their site in Kovvada may be given to Westinghouse."

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