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HT interview: France plans to train Indian personnel on EPR tech, says French minister

Jul 22, 2023 12:13 AM IST

France plans to train Indian personnel on EPR technology for the Jaitapur nuclear power project, which will have a significant "Make in India" component. France also supports India's ambitions for carbon neutrality and phasing out fossil fuels and aims to strengthen multilateral commitment on these issues. France and India are cooperating on renewable energy, including solar power, and are working together on modular reactors. France supports India's Aatmanirbhar Bharat program and believes energy is crucial for strategic autonomy. France and India are also working together to spur international action on climate change.

New Delhi

French energy transition minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher has said. (Twitter)
French energy transition minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher has said. (Twitter)

France plans to train Indian personnel on EPR (Eurpean pressurised reactor) technology as part of work on the Jaitapur nuclear power project, which will have a significant “Make in India” component, French energy transition minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher has said.

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In an interview ahead of her virtual participation in a G20 energy ministers’ meeting in Goa on Saturday, she said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shown that energy is crucial for strategic autonomy. Edited excerpts:

Q. What are France’s priorities for the G20 energy ministers’ meeting and how do your interests converge with India?

A: India’s presidency has set very strong ambitions for the G20 agenda on energy transition issues, which France fully supports. Our priority, which I will stress in Goa, is to strengthen the level of multilateral commitment on achieving carbon neutrality and phasing out fossil fuels. I will highlight the need to address the multiple challenges of energy transition – decarbonising the energy mix, energy security and diversification of supply chains – and to ensure an inclusive energy transition. Energy efficiency, energy savings and the adoption of more sustainable lifestyles are the core of these efforts, and that is why France fully supports India’s Lifestyle for the Environment (LiFE) initiative.

Lastly, the G20 must live up to its international responsibility and address the disastrous consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the energy sector.

Q. What are focus areas in France’s engagements with India, since energy forms a key part of the new 25-year roadmap?

A: Indeed, energy transition was an important topic of discussion in Paris, and it features as a priority in the Roadmap 2047 adopted by President Macron and Prime Minister Modi. Our energy cooperation serves three objectives: meeting the Paris Agreement’s goals and achieving carbon neutrality as soon as possible while addressing the growing energy demand driven by India’s fast-paced development, and reinforcing our energy security. Renewable energy – solar and wind but also hydropower – are at the core of our bilateral cooperation and both our countries believe nuclear energy is a key solution in combating climate change.

In pursuit of these shared goals, our cooperation contributes directly to India’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat programme, whether it be through French investments in the energy sector in India, technology transfers or efforts to enhance energy independence. As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shown, energy is a crucial issue for strategic autonomy.

Q. What are the plans to bolster cooperation in renewable energy and helping third countries with solar power programmes?

A: The large-scale, rapid deployment of renewable energy in India, and India’s ambitious goal to achieve 500 GW of installed non-fossil fuel capacity by 2030 are truly impressive. France and French companies are India’s steadfast partners for meeting this ambition. French companies have invested massively in clean energy in India in recent years – today, we estimate that 10% of all installed solar capacity in India involves at least one French company!

Going forward, we are joining hands on decarbonised hydrogen, a key energy vector for the future. Last year, we adopted a joint roadmap to bring our regulatory standards, research and industrial actors closer together. This new cooperation is already delivering results. On July 14, we announced a major partnership between France’s McPhy and India’s Larsen & Toubro to manufacture electrolysers in India. Together, we can be leaders of the emerging decarbonised hydrogen market.

Lastly, we believe that together, France and India can act as a driving force to spur international action on climate. That is why we co-founded the International Solar Alliance, which has become a universal international organisation with 93 member states. We fully support its role as a provider of solutions for unlocking solar power in developing countries, in particular through the STAR-C solar capacity building programme.

I look forward to exchanging views with Minister RK Singh on taking forward this ambitious agenda.

Q. In civil nuclear cooperation, what is the status of the Jaitapur nuclear power project and the proposal to train Indian personnel in projects with EPR reactors, and the plan to develop low- and medium-power modular reactors?

A: French and Indian teams are working together intensively to address all aspects of the Jaitapur nuclear power plant project, which represents a key pillar of the Indo-French strategic partnership. In Paris on July 14, we welcomed the recent progress on technical and commercial negotiations. This project will benefit from feedback from others EPR projects worldwide – three EPRs are already in operation abroad and three more are under construction – as well as from France’s ambitious new programme to build up to 14 new EPRs. Moreover, thanks to the involvement of dozens of Indian companies, Jaitapur would entail a significant Make in India component.

On training and skill development, we have already set up joint training sessions in past years, in line with the Skill India initiative. Now, as part of the Jaitapur project, our proposal is to extend this cooperation and train Indian engineers and technicians on EPR technology.

Another key outcome from Prime Minister Modi’s visit was the decision to launch cooperation on modular reactors – SMRs and AMRs – which are innovative solutions, in addition to larger reactors and renewable energy. Our goal is to work as partners not only on reactor technologies, but also on potential applications (electricity generation, hydrogen production, etc), certification, training and industrial partnerships. The French SMR (Nuward) is in a late development stage, and various French start-ups are working on advanced reactors, such as Naarea, based on molten salt reactors, and Newcleo, based on sodium-cooled fast reactors.

Q. How can India and France work together on green transition and its funding and at COP28?

A: As we know from the IPCC report, global warming is accelerating. Global emissions are back to pre-pandemic levels. If they don’t start decreasing by 2025, we will not meet the 1.5°C target. France has decreased its emissions by 2.7% in 2022 and we are engaged in the world’s most ambitious programme to cut our emissions through a system-wide approach. This will lead us to reduce our emissions by 55% in 2030 at the EU level. At COP28, the international community will carry out the first global stocktaking of climate efforts and we will strive to set the necessary goals for the next few decades, all the way to carbon neutrality by mid-century. To this end, we know the world needs to cut its dependency on fossil fuels. France will support the vulnerable countries’ call to phase out fossil fuels at COP28.

France is fully committed to supporting developing and emerging countries in achieving a just transition. France contributes more than €6 billion annually to climate finance and we are spearheading efforts to build a new North-South consensus. That was the purpose of the Summit for a New Global Financial Pact hosted by President Macron in June, attended by more than 40 heads of state and government, and which aimed at enabling a financing breakthrough so that no country would have to choose between reducing poverty, combating climate change, and preserving biodiversity. We work very closely with India on this topic, and we believe India has a unique capacity to act as a bridge on this crucial issue. The “Paris agenda for people and planet” was discussed during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Paris, and our goal is for it to help achieve meaningful outcomes at India’s G20 Summit in September and COP28 in November.

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