Days after the passage of the US legislation on civil nuclear cooperation to India, state-run Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd on Monday said it is in talks with global players such as GE and Siemens and may invest up to Rs 500 crore to expand its nuclear production capacities.
"We are talking with equipment suppliers like GE, Alstom, Areva and Siemens. Our primary objective is technology tie-up, but we are not averse to forming a joint venture," BHEL Chairman and Managing Director Ashok K Puri said in an interview.
As things become clear over nuclear issues, more players have been approaching BHEL, he said, adding the "government is encouraging us to go for such technology tie-ups."
US President George W Bush had on December 18 signed the nuclear energy cooperation law that allows American companies to sell nuclear fuel and equipment to India.
As such, BHEL is in the market for acquiring European and US companies to strengthen its technology base as part of its endeavour to go global and has estimated that it may require a total of 8,000-10,000 crore investment in the next few years.
Asked to elaborate on the possible joint venture and investments, Puri said: "Joint venture will be only for assembling and testing... We shall leverage from our existing facilities... At this juncture I feel the investment involved to be at the most Rs 500 crore."
BHEL, India's largest power equipment supplier, has set up about 80 per cent of the country's installed nuclear power generation capacity of about 3,300 MW. The company is now focusing on 700 MW and higher rating nuclear units.
The company is currently supplying equipment of up to 540 MW capacity to Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) for its projects, BHEL officials said. Among the players for technology tie-up, officials said German major Siemens could be a front-runner as it has a tie-up with BHEL for existing nuclear sets and the companies may extend it for bigger sets.
Puri said the company has already begun enhancement of some of its existing manufacturing facilities in Trichi, Hardwar and Bhopal for gearing up to participate in the process of developing nuclear projects.
Currently, state-run NPCIL is the only nuclear power generator in the country and demand for nuclear equipments was poised to rise in a big way with the government likely to open up the sector for private sector participation.
Various power generation companies such as state-run NTPC, and private sector giants Tata Power and Reliance Energy have already evinced interest in venturing into nuclear power.
In the wake of the Indo-US nuclear deal, NPCIL estimates the country could add 20,000-40,000 MW of nuclear power generation capacity over the next decade if several more players, including private companies, enter the sector. The country's nuclear generation capacity, currently at 3,310 MW, forms less than three per cent of the total capacity of about 1,25,000 MW.