India’s manufacturing industry, overshadowed by the services industry for nearly a decade, has a significant opportunity following the Nuclear Suppliers Group’s decision to grant India an exemption from its ban on nuclear exports under certain conditions. Since there is a possibility of several nuclear power plants — particularly from Russia and France — coming up in the country over the next decade, a new domestic market for components beckons Indi an manufacturing. While the financial rewards could be enticing, what is more important is that, with the right attitude, the manufacturing capabilities and competence levels of Indian industry could go up by several notches. Suppliers to nuclear power plants have but to meet the most exacting standards of quality and precision. This is why companies supplying components for space and nuclear programmes are rated high. While major players such as Larsen & Toubro Limited, BHEL, and MTAR Technologies Pvt. Ltd. are substantially involved in the nuclear programme, the number of domestic suppliers could increase as the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited inducts more imported reactors. Although the NPCIL claims a 20-25 per cent cost advantage for components manufactured in India, the real advantage will be with a few suppliers with proven capabilities and mature experience.
While most of the material, machinery, and equipment required for the two 1000 MW light water reactors coming up at Kudankulam have come from Russia, the hope will be of increased Indian participation in the next and bigger phase featuring even larger reactors. It must be kept in mind that virtually all the reactors that will come up through foreign cooperation will be light water reactors (LWR) fuelled by enriched uranium, as distinct from the indigenous pressurised heavy water reactors that use natural uranium. India does not yet have the expertise to manufacture certain critical components such as reactor vessels but the good news is that some foreign companies have started looking seriously at local expertise for manufacturing certain components. A joint assessment by the NPCIL along with Areva of France and GE of the United States earlier this year found that India’s capability to manufacture all the parts required for a 1000-1600 MW LWR can be enhanced with certain technology tie-ups. If the opportunities offered by an expanded nuclear power programme to domestic manufacturers are not to be notional or peripheral, the industry must strengthen its technological capabilities, not rely solely on cost advantage, and commit itself to the highest standards of reliability and excellence in supplying both critical and non-critical components.
7 months ago