Monday, February 02, 2015

India-US nuclear deal will allow MNC Westinghouse to supply "untested, expensive" technology to Gujarat

MV Ramana                     Suvrat Raju 
By Our Representative
A major danger awaits Gujarat, if two senior physicists are to be believed. Suvrat Raju and MV Ramana, who have worked as scholars in the US, have said that the “most baffling feature” of the recent nuclear deal between the US and India is that it would allow Westinghouse, the top US company which has entered into an agreement with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), to supply two nuclear reactors for the proposed Mithi Virdi nuclear power plant in Gujarat which are “expensive and untested”.
According to the two scientists, the offer to “sell” the reactor designs – Westinghouse AP1000 – for Mithi Virdi “is not in commercial operation anywhere and has encountered difficulties wherever it is being built.” The scientists have added, “At Plant Vogtle, in the US state of Georgia, Westinghouse and its partner Georgia Power have sued each other for a billion dollars over cost increases and delays. Even in China, the AP1000 has been delayed by about two years because of problems with reactor coolant pumps.”
The scientists have said, the Vogtle plants were “initially estimated to cost about $7 billion apiece”. And, “even accounting for lower construction costs in India” they would actually “translate into electricity tariffs that are as high as Rs 15 per unit.” According to them, “If the government is looking for cheap electricity to promote development, importing American reactors hardly seems like a smart choice.”
Significantly, this is half as much Prime Minister Narendra Modi had claimed the solar power would cost in Gujarat when the was the state's chief minister – just about Rs 8 to Rs 8.50 per unit. "Due to the efforts made by the Gujarat government, the cost of solar power has come down to Rs 8.50 per unit from Rs15 per unit," Modi had said while opening 600 MW of power plants in 2012 at Charanka in North Gujarat.
As for the General Electric's (GE’s) Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR), selected for the proposed Kovvada (Andhra Pradesh), the two scientists said, “After years of questions about ESBWR’s steam dryer, the design obtained regulatory approval from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission — the first step before construction can commence — only in September 2014. There are no firm orders for the ESBWR.”
While Raju has been a Harvard scholar and is currently with the at the the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences, which is part of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Ramana did his higher studies at Boston and Princeton and has worked at the the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Environment and Development in Bangalore. Both are physicists with the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace.
The revelation comes amidst accusation by the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) in Ahmedabad that through the recent agreement the US multinational corporations are proposing to “dump” old, untested technology in India, at a time when they stopped installing nuclear reactors in the US. Talking with newspersons, economist Hemant Shah said, “The deal is merely meant to revive the dead nuclear armament companies, and the Modi government has just capitulated.”

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