by Ajai Shukla
Powai and Hazira
Business Standard, 2nd Apr 10
L&T’s heavy engineering skills have already made it the partner of choice for the nuclear power reactor manufacturers that are eyeing the Indian market. Industry leaders Westinghouse-Toshiba and GE-Hitachi of the US, AEC of Canada, and Rosatom of Russia have already signed MoUs to partner L&T in building reactors in India.
Today, L&T expanded that potential role, signing a MoU with UK company, Rolls-Royce to collaborate in nuclear instrumentation and controls, reactor components, in-service reactor support and waste management. L&T will obtain these capabilities for light water reactors, which currently comprise 60% of the world’s installed nuclear capacity.
Rolls-Royce already has a nuclear certified supply chain of more than 260 companies. The company provides advice and technical engineering support to governments and reactor operators in Europe and the US, including all 58 operating nuclear reactors in France.
“Rolls-Royce is a global major in instrumentation and controls for nuclear power generation plants and this dovetails perfectly with our core business of engineering [nuclear reactors]”, L&T’s heavy engineering chief, MV Kotwal, told Business Standard. “Typically, 9% by value of a nuclear plant consists of instrumentation and controls. The L&T-Rolls-Royce JV will start by fabricating these for nuclear utilities abroad, such as EDS in France; and for nuclear plants in India when the business opens up, perhaps 12-18 months from now.”
Before L&T is eligible to participate in overseas business, India would have to first enact the enabling legislation, including the contentious nuclear liability bill.
L&T is currently the only Indian company that is globally certified for manufacturing nuclear power generation equipment, having obtained the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Nuclear-stamp. Rolls-Royce’s existing presence in the international nuclear industry would offer L&T the marketing partnership for supplying nuclear plants outside India.
Business Standard has just visited L&T’s heavy engineering facilities at Powai (Mumbai) and Hazira (Gujarat), which were inspected by the world’s four big reactor companies before they signed production MoUs with L&T. These sophisticated facilities have manufactured nuclear reactor components for years, in partnership with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) for India’s indigenous nuclear power plants. Alongside rocket motor casings for India’s space programme, an L&T engineer points out work in progress on India’s most advanced reactor, the Fast Breeder Reactor.
“We have a quality rating of more than 95% on tube-to-tube sheet welding for Fast Breeder Reactors”, claims the engineer. “Going by the available information, this is the highest quality in the world.”
That rating means that 95% of all welded joints pass the mandatory X-ray inspection. Only 5 joints in a hundred need to undergo repair.
A heavy forging plant that is coming up in L&T’s Hazira facilities will soon supplement its engineering skills. Capable of producing individual forgings as large as 600 tonnes, this forge is a 74-26% JV with NPCIL, with L&T holding the majority share.
“Nuclear reactors require very clean forgings, since any contamination causes problems while handling radioactive materials”, explains an L&T engineer. “These are made of advanced Vanadium and Molybdenum steels, which very few suppliers can provide. That is why we have set up one in Hazira.”
L&T believes that the current installation of Russian VVER 1000 MWe light water reactors at Kudankulam will be the last foreign built reactors that will generate power in India. Hereafter, it would be far more economical for foreign suppliers to build major reactor components in India and save on labour, material and transportation costs.
“I can only guess at the volume of business that will be generated in India”, says MV Kotwal of L&T. “But my estimation would be that by about 2013-15, we would be looking at about Rs 6000 crores of available business potential.”