Time for India to cancel Jaitapur nuclear power plant project
Time for India to cancel Jaitapur nuclear power plant project
France keen to flog its ‘messy’ technology in India
France remains desperate to sell its severely disrupted EPR nuclear reactors to India, even though its own project at home and at the two sites outside of France has experienced severe cost and time overruns and continues to face severe cost and time overruns. security concerns.
On March 3, 2021, Électricité de France, EDF, the sole operator of nuclear power plants in France, informed the country’s nuclear safety body, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN), of a design anomaly on three nozzles of the main primary system of the European pressurized reactor that it is building at Flamanville in the north-west of France. The design flaw is serious because the primary primary system contains water used to cool the reactor core and transfer nuclear reaction energy to the steam generators. The design dates back to 2006 and the nozzles were manufactured in 2011.
It is the latest in a very long series of flaws and problems that EDF has struggled with since it embarked on the EPR construction project at the start of the millennium. The Flamanville project was commissioned in 2007 and was to be operational in 2013 at a cost of 3.3 billion euros. However, after several hiccups of all kinds, the project should now be completed in 2023 at a cost of 12.4 billion euros. A complete delay of 10 years and at four times the original cost.
The story is no different on two other EPR construction sites. Finland ordered the reactor in the early 2000s and construction began in 2005. Yet 16 years and several delays, along with costs more than three times the original budget of 3.2 billion euros, the latest deadline for completion of the project, is now next year.
The two EPRs that eventually saw the light of day are both in China at the Taishan nuclear power plant which started after a delay of more than 6 years and undisclosed cost overruns.
The EPR was so complicated that on July 23, 2020, in an unusually direct interview, the French Minister of Ecological Transition, Barbara Pompili, trashed the Flamanville project as a messy project whose cost quadrupled. Pompili said Flamanville’s criticism reflects the broad industry consensus that has emerged from various reports.
Indeed, a few days earlier, on July 9, 2020, the French Court of Auditors, the equivalent of the Indian Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), had also ruled against EDF and its white elephant pet project, claiming that the lack of oversight led to the hasty launch of the first two EPRs in Finland and Flamanville. “This insufficient preparation has led to an underestimation of the difficulties and costs of construction and to an overestimation of the capacity of the French nuclear sector to cope with them, creating financial risks for the companies in the sector”, had launched the auditor.
He then criticized the whole idea of EPR itself, even though the operation of the reactor in China was able to prove the technology. “Although this choice of technology has proved its worth in China and the improvements made in the management of these large-scale projects, the financial and technical gains expected from the EPR 2 project remain to be confirmed. The construction of the new EPRs in France should in no case have been considered without a clear idea of the financing methods and the place of nuclear power generation in the future electricity mix ”, he declared.
The experience of this dilapidated project was so terrible that France decided to reduce its own dependence on nuclear energy and eventual phase-out. “We are committed to reducing the share of nuclear power to 50 pc by 2035 and then we will have to make a choice after 2035, either we will continue to have a good part of nuclear power, or we will reduce nuclear power. to achieve 100 pc renewable by 2050 ”, Pompili said, adding:“ Citizens must have viable alternatives. So today, we are studying other reactors that could be built but we are also studying the solution where we would arrive at 100 pc renewable.
EPR rejected worldwide
Having learned lessons from Finland, France and China, many countries canceled plans to install the reactor which was flogged as the most modern in the world. The list of countries that have pulled out reads like a global who’s-who.
After suffering with the first EPR, the Finnish utility TVO announced in 2015 that it had canceled its plan to build a second EPR at Olkiluoto. So much so that in 2012 Finland rejected EPRs in tenders for new electricity projects. The Czech Republic has also done the same. The United States was exploring options for 7 EPRs and four construction applications had already been submitted to the nuclear regulator Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but all are being dropped.
Canada had also planned for the use of EPRs, but the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission ended the licensing process after the plans set aside. Closer to EDF, in 2009 Italian utility Enel and EDF planned to build four EPRs, but it was scrapped after Italy rejected nuclear power per se. Additionally, when the UAE wanted their first nuclear reactor, they opted for South Korean reactor technology over EPRs.
India, last resort for EDF and France
Despite his rejection, even at home, France has not given up on its ten-year lobbying to sell this problematic and extremely expensive form of electricity to India. On April 22, EDF submitted a firm techno-commercial offer to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) for the construction of six EPR reactors at Jaitapur in Maharashtra.
According to EDF, the offer includes a detailed technical configuration of the reactors, taking into account the information provided by NPCIL on the conditions of the Jaitapur site and the joint global works carried out by EDF and NPCIL as well as the associated overall commercial conditions for the supply. engineering studies and equipment for six EPR reactors, said EDF.
“NPCIL is responsible for the construction and commissioning of each of the six (6) units of the Jaitapur nuclear power plant, as well as obtaining all necessary permits and consents in India, including certification of the EPR technology by the Indian safety regulator, ”he added.
The firm offer is another important step in the history of the Jaitapur project. Both parties have been talking about it for 12 years now. In 2009, NPCIL signed a memorandum of understanding on the Jaitapur project with Areva, the French nuclear power producer which went bankrupt six years ago and merged with EDF, another state-owned company. However, since then negotiations have progressed at a snail’s pace due to serious differences between the two sides on multiple factors including the price of Jaitapur energy and also accident liability as currently, according to international standards, electricity producers have an overwhelming responsibility, while EDF is only responsible for the material supplied.
As with other EPR projects elsewhere in the world, Jaitapur will also prove to be extremely expensive and become a heavy financial responsibility for NPCIL as well as for Indian consumers.
But security isn’t the only reason Jaitapur isn’t a good idea. The economic viability of the project is also questionable. Although the final cost of Jaitapur has not been disclosed, if a Flamanville unit were to cost more than 11 billion euros, the final cost of six reactors would safely be in the order of 70 billion euros. Even in 2009, the cost of electricity produced in Jaitapur was set at almost 9 rupees per kWh, almost three times the price of electricity from a coal-fired power station.
Moreover, the whole energy scenario in India has changed over the past decade, making Jaitapur look much more like a white elephant than a much needed source of energy. Ten years ago India faced severe power shortages and renewable energy was still in its infancy. However, over the past 10 years, the marked mismatch of energy demand and supply has been largely bridged, and as a result, many proposed power plants have remained on the design board.
But the biggest change has come from the renewable energy sector and this also mainly from solar energy. In recent years, solar power generation in India has increased sharply and the government proposes to have an installed capacity of over 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022, of which 100 GW would be solar. Over the years, India has installed 93 GW of renewable energy, including 39 GW of solar energy. Solar energy production has been propelled by the extremely low prices of solar panels. As a result, power producers sell electricity even below Rs 3 per kWh, with some bids actually approaching Rs 2.5 per unit. In this situation, for any electricity producer or distribution company, it becomes impossible to justify triple or higher prices, as is the case with Jaitapur.
It is important to remember that the residents around Jaitapur protested against the project from the start and that if the project is sanctioned, the acquisition of land is sure to run into problems, delaying the project, like many others. , including Modi’s pet, Bullet. Train project.
There is no reason for India to continue these negotiations and get stuck in yet another Enron-like situation that occurred about 150 km from Jaitapur. India, and especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi, must remember that history repeats itself.