Reliance Industries may nuclear energy business with Bechtel

Monday, June 7, 2010, 19:31 by Business Editor

The Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Industries Ltd is said to be mulling over entering the nuclear energy business.

Sources say that RIL has intimated to the government their interest to generate and distribute nuclear power. The recent US-India civil nuclear deal has paved the way for several companies to consider entering the nuclear energy business.

RIL is believed to be talking to Bechtel Corporation, the engineering, construction and project management giant, based in the US, for a possible collaboration in this regard. Although nuclear plans are still at an early stage for RIL, they are reportedly doing a feasibility study regarding the move.

Recently the non-compete pact that existed between the Ambani brothers had been annulled, and RIL is now free to enter in the power market among other businesses.

According to the regulations currently in place, private Indian firms can be a minority partner in nuclear power projects. The government will retain 51per cent equity stake through its nuclear divisions – NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corporation of India) or BHAVINI (Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam), which are the only two authorized to build nuclear plants in the country. NTPC was the first power company to have entered into a joint venture pact with NPCIL to execute nuclear power projects. RIL is expected to follow NTPC’s lead of having 49 per cent stake of the joint venture. RIL’s entry into this market would make it the first investment in this sector that is coming from a private firm.

RIL is already associated with Bechtel, on the KG-D6 Bay of Bengal deepwater gas field development, and on the construction of their Jamnagar refinery.

Bechtel is the company that designed and built almost half of the nuclear power plants in the US. It was named the top US contractor, a status that has been steady for 12 consecutive years, by Engineering News-Record (ENR).

India’s aim is to have the capacity to generate 10, 080 mw by 2017, and crucially needs private investment to make this a reality. At present, nuclear power capacity stands at 4,560mw.?

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