Given the range of issues with the Jaitapur project, it would not be in the interests of our country to sign any agreement with AREVA on the EPR reactor. The Jaitapur plant and designs must be subjected to a public scrutiny, both on techno-economic grounds and on questions of safety, before any decision is taken.
The National Committee in Solidarity with Jaitapur Struggle had written to the PM on August, 2012 that the costly imported Areva reactors would result in very expensive power to the consumers. It had also brought out that apart from high costs, there are major concerns with the Jaitapur project.
The Committee had pointed out that the 1650 MW EPR is an untested design, and has caused serious concerns among the nuclear safety agencies of different countries. The project has not been subjected to an independent, rigorous, scientific techno-economic scrutiny and safety audit in the public domain. Regarding the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report of the project, it is important to note that NEERI, the agency that prepared the EIA, is admittedly not competent on matters concerning nuclear hazards.
The Jaitapur project is being pushed against the will of the people of the region. Any nuclear plant has to work with the people of the area if it has to operate safely. It must also work out safety drills and evacuation procedures in the case of an accident. All this requires taking the local people into confidence, and not suppressing them with full force of the state as is being done currently.
Post Fukushima, France’s Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (ASN) has completed a thorough re-assessment of Areva’s EPR reactor, one of which France is building in Flamanville. As a result, several substantial modifications to its hardware and subsystems, as well as design and safety re-analyses, have been mandated by ASN. This has resulted in a further increase in costs of Flamanville by about 30%. The Finnish safety regulatory body STUK has also asked for a set of post-Fukushima modifications to be incorporated in their EPR.
The French electricity company, Electricité de France (EDF), has announced recently that after this latest escalation, the cost of the single, 1650 MW reactor in Flamanville now stands at 8.3 billion Euros, far beyond its initial projected cost of 3 billion euros.
At the current euro-rupee exchange rate (Rs 72), this works out to a cost of Rs 36 crores per MW. Based on Flamanville costs, the Phase I capital cost of the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant (JNPP) would be of the order of Rs 120,000 crores for 2 reactors, with a capacity of 3,300 MW. With this amount of investment, India can install more than 20,000 MW of coal fired plants.
The NPCIL and the government have refused to disclose the costs and resultant tariff for the JNPP. If the above costs are any indication, the electricity tariff from Jaitapur would not be less than Rs 12-14 per unit. This is not viable as it would impose very high rates of tariff for Maharashtra and other consumers. The 2,000 MW Dabhol plant is currently producing only a sixth of its capacity, as its high cost power prohibits any significant grid off-take. If the same course is pursued in Jaitapur as was done with Enron’s Dabhol plant, Jaitapur is also likely to become a stranded asset.
After EDF’s announcement about the increase in costs, a number of companies have pulled out of EPR projects. Siemens had withdrawn from Areva even earlier. Now the Italian energy company Enel has terminated the strategic partnership it signed with EDF 2007, announced the withdrawal of their 12.5 % stake in EDF’s Flamanville project, and their withdrawal from five other EPR projects in France. Centrica of Britain has also announced its withdrawal from a joint venture with EDF to build EPR nuclear plants in Britain.
The trends in the share price of the EDF are also indicative of the crisis of its EPR program. Five years back, in March 2008, the EDF share price was at around 70 euros. Today it stands at 13.9 euros. Similarly, Areva’s share prices have also fallen.
A matter of great concern is the earthquake hazard study for the Jaitapur site carried out by NPCIL and its consultants. Prof. Vinod Gaur, Distinguished Professor of Geophysics and Seismology at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics at Bangalore, a senior U.S. Seismologist Professor Roger Bilham, in an article on Jaitapur seismicity in the Current Science journal of the Indian Academy of Sciences last year, have raised serious doubts about the prudence of setting up six 1650 MW nuclear reactors at this site. In Fukushima also, the authorities had ignored or suppressed few of the early independent expert views on the likelihood of a higher strength earthquake. Prof.Gaur has stated that NPCIL has intimidated and silenced other seismologists, who have views opposing the official assessments, for example denying Prof. Bilham entry into India ever since he co-authored the article on Jaitapur seismicity.
We understand that NPCIL is planning to sign an agreement with AREVA during the visit of the French President. Given the range of issues with the Jaitapur project, it would not be in the interests of our country to sign any agreement with AREVA on the EPR reactor. The Jaitapur plant and designs must be subjected to a public scrutiny, both on techno-economic grounds and on questions of safety, before any decision is taken.
The Committee opposes setting up nuclear plants with costly imported reactors and also believes that without a thorough safety review and a detailed techno-economic analysis of India’s nuclear energy program, no expansion of the nuclear power programme should be undertaken in the country.
Dr. A Gopalakrishnan