India Grants Clearance for Indo-French Nuclear Power Plant

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Nov. 29 – India on Sunday granted environmental clearance for a nuclear power plant to be built in collaboration with French firm Areva, days before President Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to New Delhi.

Environmental Minister Jairam Ramesh gave the go-ahead for the plant, which will be built in Jaitapur, Maharahstra, and will use nuclear reactors supplied by Areva.

“From an environmental point of view, nuclear energy is a cleaner option than coal,” Ramesh said in a press release, though noting that he has called for further research into the plant’s potential environmental impact.

Despite protests, the 34-year-old embargo on nuclear exchange with India, imposed in 1974 following a series of Indian nuclear tests, was lifted in 2008 by the Bush administration.

Sensing an emerging market for nuclear goods, France signed an agreement with India on nuclear energy cooperation in 2009, and Russia has done the same.

Ramesh said nuclear energy accounted for roughly 3 percent of India’s energy generation, but the government wanted to increase the figure to 6 percent by 2020 and possibly 13 percent by 2030.

Local media reports that Areva and the Indian government-run Nuclear Power Corporation (NPC) will sign the agreement during Sarkozy’s trip to Delhi.

The NPC predicts the first reactor will cost an estimated US$5.27 billion and will be commissioned by 2017-18.

The project will eventually have six reactors generating 1,650 megawatts each, though it has several more government regulatory hurdles to overcome before being given the final okay.

India is dependent on oil imports for nearly 70 percent of its energy needs and, despite protests from local environmental groups, the project will likely press forward on schedule.