Months after the cyberattack at Kudankulam where India’s Thorium research was targeted, the Indian government is contemplating to allow Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in nuclear power area. The decision, likely to be considered by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), would be a paradigm shift in India’s nuclear power policy, and subsequently open the gates for multinational companies to overtake the country’s nuclear energy projects.
After deliberations with the PMO, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has sought legal opinion from the Union Law Ministry on whether foreign investment can be allowed in the nuclear power sector, if the FDI policy is amended.
“The department (DAE) proposes to submit a report for consideration to the PMO after seeking guidance from the Atomic Energy Commission for amending the policy,” says the letter by Joint Secretary, DAE (Anushakti Bhawan), dated January 8 this year.
The letter, reviewed by IANS, further reveals that DAE’s view is clear on private equity in nuclear power sector.
“DAE’s stand is that the Atomic Energy Act in no way prohibits private sector participation in nuclear power projects,” the letter adds.
An official of the DAE explained the department’s stand in simpler words: “The Act allows private investment. However, the FDI policy of the government does not permit foreign investment in nuclear projects. Once the FDI policy is amended, it would open doors for more funds in the nuclear power sector.”
Sources said that several foreign companies, including Westinghouse Electric Company (WEC) and GE-Hitachi of the US, Electricite de France (EDF) of France and Rosatom of Russia have expressed keen interest in participating in India’s nuclear power projects.
As per government sources, these MNCs are interested to invest in various areas such as technology, supplies or as contractors and service providers. However, these foreign companies can’t yet invest in the country’s increasing number of nuclear power projects, as the FDI policy does not permit them to do so.
The move comes months after the cyberattack at Kudankulam, where it is believed the hackers stole India’s thorium secrets. The United States based Thorium Energy Alliance estimates “there is enough thorium in the United States alone to power the country at its current energy level for over 1,000 years.” And India has the largest thorium reserves in the world, which could power entire South Asia for more than 1,000 years. Thorium based nuclear power is a highly sensitive technology, a strategic leap which has the potential to tip the geopolitical balance of power – on which the major powers have set their eyes on since inception.
The concept of using thorium as a nuclear fuel was proposed by the father of India’s nuclear program Homi Bhabha in the 1950s. This thorium focused strategy was in marked contrast to all other countries in the world, which at the time were more concerned about nuclear weapons. It is believed in the intelligence community that Homi Bhabha was assassinated to ultimately paralyse India’s nuclear program – specifically the research into Thorium based nuclear power.
Now wih FDI in Nuclear Power, the Indian government is about to open the gates for foreign penetration into India’s sensitive nuclear energy projects.
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