We still need lot of sweat to get to the next point in Jaitapur: EDF CEO

Jean Bernard Levy
Jyoti Mukul few hours after entering into agreements with Nuclear Power Corporation of India and other Indian companies for the Jaitapur nuclear power plant on Saturday. The French state-run power major that has globally moved to a low-carbon business model is looking to increase its power generation capacity in India to 2 GW. In an exclusive interview, Levy pitches for concerted steps towards contract signing for Jaitapur while hoping for standard federal regulations in the renewable sector. Edited excerpts:

What are the broad contours of three agreements signed by you for Jaitapur—one with NPCIL and two with other companies including Reliance, Energie, L&T, etc?
This is a very important milestone for a low-carbon transition for India. In future, nuclear and renewable will be the right mix for India. Nuclear will be the building block for base load power. Through the agreement, we are creating a structure to implement a contract in future. We have signed an industrial agreement which sets the goals for who does what and this should lead to the contract. We will have two joint ventures—for engineering and nuclear standards—so that our set-up is ready. These all will concur to make the project go well. The government has given a push to Jaitapur. It is a decisive step but not the final step. We still need a lot of sweat to get to the next point which will be the contract.

What is the idea behind supplying two electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) units?
Everything will be ready to build six EPRs but the first phase will be to build two. It will ultimately be the largest nuclear production site in the world with 10 GW capacity. We will now prepare the contract. The timelines will be frozen in the contract. There will be key milestones like freezing the design, getting the Nuclear Safety Authority to approve the design or other milestones like starting the nuclear quality concrete and construction of nuclear island. Our common goal is to reach a contract by the end of this year which is nine months.

Under the industrial agreement, which we have signed, NPCIL is the client and will be operating the unit and will be in-charge of some of what needs to be done.

Who will do the EPC or construction work for the plant; there were concerns on who does it? 
The construction will be done by NPCIL with the support of EDF. Engineering and procurement will be done by EDF. This model is called EP plus and has worked very well in other projects.

What would be the component of Make in India in the first two reactors and then subsequently for other reactors?
The first two reactors will not be totally imported. A lot of work will be in India and that is why we are creating the engineering JV. Engineering will be done partly at Mumbai and at the site. Also, we will use the manufacturing skills of Indian companies and we have lots of visits to understand the nuclear quality for Indian companies. A lot of what can be done by Indian companies will be done by them. There will some imports but a significant amount will be local work. Reliance, for instance, brings the Indian leg into it. Reliance has been part of construction of other nuclear reactors in India. They have good engineering skills.

We believe that the joint venture in the standards will help Indian companies to comply with nuclear standards and participate more companies to participate in unit three and six.

How is the credit finance structured for the unit? 
French public financing entities will be delivering proposals for funding the project through the usual routes. They will fund NPCIL. There have been several preliminary missions. There will export financing that will be delivered with the EDF proposal.

Who will be bearing the liability for the project?
We will be responsible for engineering, procurement and support for NPCIL. Whatever we do, we will have liability under the contract.

What does EDF bring to India in renewable?
India should be very proud that it is getting together all these countries under the International Solar Alliance.

We are among the top foreign investor in renewables, both wind and solar. We have 500 MW capacity. Besides, we have presence in smart grid and smart meters. Generating power is necessary but it is not sufficient if you do not have a reliable transmission system. The solar price point is very exciting at the moment.

What would you like to change in the Indian renewable energy sector?
Regulation is not very easy. We would want more simple regulation. We would be happy if there is a single federal regulation. It is difficult for companies like us to see the evolving regulations in states. But even then, we will like to go forward. We are happy to invest in India.

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