India’s government has decided that large projects to build Light Water Reactors (LWRs), which involve foreign collaborators, must be organised as joint ventures (JVs) with public sector undertakings (PSUs), the Economic Times reported. This will also allow the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) to focus on financing the smaller domestically designed pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) that are currently under construction. NPCIL, PSU under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), is responsible for building and operating India’s NPPs. It is in talks to form JVs with two other PSUs – the Indian Oil Corporation and National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) – after the government amended the 1962 Atomic Energy Act to enable such arrangements.

"It has been decided to push future LWR projects for JVs. However, it will not be extended to PHWRs which the NPCIL is currently building and we will be managing the equity on our own," said a senior NPCIL official. The main reason for such JVs is that the LWRs are expensive and require the necessary equity. The indigenous PHWRs are smaller and cheaper by comparison.

The official, however, added that the JVs will take place only if both the parties agree.

The LWRs to be built as units 5 and 6 of the Kudankulam NPP will not come under the purview of this new system as soft loans for these Russian-supplied VVER reactors are already underway. However, it would apply to future LWR projects. "We are currently in negotiations with banks for getting 70% of funding in the form of debt financing and 30% of the equity will come from JVs," the official added. Some 18 LWRs are planned. French Company EDF will built six LWRs with a capacity of 1,650MWe each in Jaitapur, Maharashtra while US-based Westinghouse Co (part of Toshiba) is expected to build six 1,000MWe units in Andhra Pradesh. Six more 1,000MWe units may be with the assistance of GE. Russia is also expected to build more units at another site in Andhra Pradesh.

The NPCIL is currently building two 700MWe PHWRs each in Gorakhpur in Haryana, Chutka in Madhya Pradesh, MahiBanswara in Rajasthan and Kaiga in Karnataka.