The nuclear disaster in Japan’s quake-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant could not have come at a worse time for the U.S.-based General Electric Co (GE), which is holding its Corporate Executive Council (CEC) meet in the Capital as part of its plans to seek a major share in the $150 billion expansion of India’s nuclear industry over the next decade.
The Fukushima NPP, which has seen two explosions in the last four days after being hit by a massive earthquake and Tsunami, has a reactor installed by GE.
GE chairman and Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt said here on Monday that it was too early to assess what kind of impact the nuclear accident in Japan will have on the future of the nuclear industry around the globe. “We will offer technical assistance to the Japanese joint venture (JV) partner Hitachi Limited to avert any kind of nuclear crisis,” he told reporters here.
Asked about the intensity of earthquakes, the nuclear reactors in Fukushima could withstand, Mr. Immelt, without elaborating on the seismic intensity, said the limits has not been breached so far. On March 4, Japan’s strongest earthquake on record at a magnitude of 8.9 struck off the Northeast, triggering tidal waves that engulfed coastal regions and seriously damaged several NPPs.
Both GE and Hitachi of Japan had formed a JV in 2007 hoping to cash in on the global resurgence in the nuclear energy field. However, the latest incident could put pressure on the company. GE’s customers in Japan include Tokyo Electric Power, some of whose nuclear facilities are facing a crisis after the natural disaster.
Transparency, first priority
To repeated questions on what the disaster in Japan holds for the future of the company, Mr. Immelt said: “It is early days. Let people do exploration of what happened and let the process take its course. Our first priority is to support the government and people of Japan and be transparent,” he remarked.
GE announced a donation of $5 million to the relief effort and is also offering technical assistance to Japanese clients, the government and its partner there, he said.
The nuclear crisis in Japan has raised fears about the future of the nuclear industry especially if governments around the world rethink their plans to build dozens of new power plants. It would also impact GE’s plans to invest in India’s potential nuclear energy basket. “There is now almost a 50-year track record of nuclear power that people can look back on and make their own judgments about,” Mr. Immelt said.
Asked if the nuclear liability legislation was a big issue with GE in spreading its wings in India, Mr. Immelt said: “I think it’s too early to make a profound decision as it pertains to India. Let the process work its course in Japan and then we will have plenty of time to make an assessment on the nuclear industry in India. I really think that the comments we have made about investing in nuclear power in India have not changed based on the tragedy in Japan, which is, we have said consistently that the regime in India has to fit the global liabilities regimes for nuclear power.”
A provision in India’s nuclear liability law that gives NPP operators the right to seek damages from plant suppliers if there is an accident, has raised concerns among companies.