Government in no hurry to privatise n-energy business

September 20th, 2008 - 7:06 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 20 (IANS) The Indian government seems to be in no hurry to allow the private sector to enter the nuclear energy business if a high-level meeting of the country’s planners Saturday is any indication.A top-level meeting of the country’s planners, the Planning Commission, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, discussed a draft integrated energy policy Saturday but failed to discuss entry of the private sector into nuclear power generation.

“There was no specific discussion about the entry of private players in the nuclear energy sector, though the meeting discussed the importance of nuclear and atomic energy,” Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia told reporters here after the meeting.

The meeting was called by the prime minister to discuss a draft energy policy.

Though different dimensions of nuclear energy towards achieving self-sufficiency in the energy sector were discussed, there was no specific mention about the entry of private players in this area.

Industry lobbies believe that after the consensus among the the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in Vienna Sep 6 to resume civilian nuclear commerce with India, as many as 400 Indian and foreign firms can benefit if they are allowed to enter the nuclear energy business.

India’s apex industry bodies, which have hailed the decision, have assessed that the country can now attract over $40 billion in foreign investment over the next 10-15 years if the private sector is allowed to enter nuclear power generation.

The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham), a leading Indian industry lobby, had conducted a survey among 300 chief executives recently that said that 400 firms - domestic and international - might get a chance to participate in the nuclear energy business.

These would include those who would set up nuclear power stations or supply components and machinery or raw materials needed to build nuclear power plants.

An overwhelming 85 percent of the 300 chief executives polled held the view that modifications to India’s Atomic Energy Act of 1962 could help the country to generate some 20,000 MWe (unit of nuclear power) by 2020.

The modification - which the chamber suggested should be immediate by way of a presidential notification - is necessary to facilitate the entry of the private sector in nuclear power generation.

The act and the decades of India’s nuclear isolation has resulted in the country’s total nuclear power generation capacity restricted to just 3,900 MWe in over 60 years of independence.

As a result, out of a total installed generation capacity of about 145,000 MW of electricity, 70 percent is accounted for by thermal power and 20 percent by hydro, with nuclear energy contributing just two percent.

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