Westinghouse CEO says firm is close to reactor deal with India

Danny Roderick told Reuters March 31 that he expects to sign a deal this June to supply the firm’s AP1000 nuclear reactors to NPCIL

According to an interview Roderick had with Reuters reporters this week in Washington, D.C., on the sidelines of a nuclear energy security conference, his firm expects Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to sign off on the deal. If it comes to pass, it will be the first commercial nuclear power project since the U.S. and India agreed to cooperate in 2008 for commercial nuclear power projects.

According to the interview, Roderick now believes that India’s efforts to develop an $220M+ insurance program to cover supplier liability for nuclear plants will open the door to the deal.

“If India continues to deliver on its milestones for the insurance programme, then that should satisfy what Westinghouse needs,” he told Reuters.

Another element now in place is that the Nuclear Power Corporation India Ltd (NPCIL) has determined that the Westinghouse offering is competitive as an energy source. This decision includes issues such as the costs of the reactors and the rates for electricity that will be charged to customers.

The news comes as U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister meet this week during the Nuclear Security Summit being held in DC.

This is most likely a political rather than a rate or regulatory finding since NPCIL has been pushing construction of an indigenous design of a 700 MW PHWR based on the CANDU reactor. NPCIL has also signed off on the construction of two more Rosatom 1000 MW VVER units at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu on India’s southern most tip.

For his part Roderick declined to tell Reuters the details of the deal. However, it is no secret that India has plans on paper to build as many as six AP1000 nuclear reactors at the western coastal site of Mithi Virdi in Bhavnagar, Gujarat.

Separately, General Electric, which has dismissed reports of progress with India’s nuclear liability law, is also on the books to supply up to six 1600 MW ESBWR reactors at the eastern coastal site of Kovvada, in Srikakulam, Andhra Pradesh. The project includes a proposal to partner with Indian firms to provide large, long lead time reactor components including reactor pressure vessels.

In February Jonathan Allen, a spokesman for GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy, told the Bloomberg wire service, “The sustainable solution to concerns about India’s existing domestic liability law is one that brings India into compliance with the International Convention on Supplementary Compensation.”

Vjay K. Sazawal, a former advisor to the U.S.-India Business Council, told the Quartz wire service this week “a lot of time has been wasted over the liability issue.”

He used a wide brush to tar both the U.S. and India with the blame for it. He said that India does not understand the scrutiny that publicly traded firms get when they start to consider bet the company types of deals. Also, he said that the U.S. has failed to appreciate the politics in India that will be affected by importing American technology at this scale.

According to Sazawal, President Obama wants to see a civil nuclear deal by September 2016. For this to happen, U.S. nuclear firms must be convinced they have the right level of protection based on international law and Indian domestic legislation.

Overall, India wants to build 63 GWe of nuclear power by 2032, but has made little progress moving beyond the 5 GWe that it current has in place.The country suffered through two unprecedented blackouts in 2012 which left 650 million people without electricity for up to a week. The political and economic clout of the owners of its massive coal deposits have held back the country’s efforts to address global warming commitments.

Areva hopes for progress at Jaitapur

While Westinghouse has moved to the front of the line in terms of American interests being advanced for nuclear deals, French state-owned nuclear giant Areva says it is making progress with NPCIL two months after a visit to India by French president François Hollande.

EDF, which is now managing the deal for up to six 1600 MW EPRs to be build at Jaitapur on India’s west coast, said that progress has been made on technology transfer agreements and deals with Indian firms for supply chain components. Land acquisition has been a bone of contention with local farmers who have demanded increased compensation for their parcels.

EDF and Areva have also sweetened the deal by pledging to provide a guarantee on nuclear fuel for the plants, at India’s cost, for their service lives which could be up to 60 years.

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