File photo of the Czech Republic's Temelin nuclear power plant, 60 kilometers from the Czech border with Austria and Germany. India has approved the construction of 10 pressurized heavy water reactors to boosts its nuclear power program. (Jaromir Kubes/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW DELHI — In a major decision to fast-track India’s domestic nuclear power program, the union cabinet May 17 approved the construction of 10 units of indigenous pressurized heavy water reactors.

"The cabinet has approved installation of 10 indigenously built PWHRs of 700 MW each," Union Minister Piyush Goyal said at a media briefing after a cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Goyal, who is union minister for power and coal, said the decision will result in significant augmentation of the country's nuclear power generation capacity. 

He said that India's installed nuclear power capacity is 6,780 MW from 22 operational plants, and another 6,700 MW is expected to be generated by 2021-22 through projects under construction. 

In July 2014, the government set a target of taking nuclear power capacity to over 14,000 MW by 2024. 

The decision to construct the 10 PHWRs comes days before the Modi government completes three years in office. 

Goyal said the move will boost domestic industry manufacturing orders by nearly Rs. 70,000 crore and is expected to generate more than 33,400 jobs in direct and indirect employment. 

"As the government marks three years of its people centric-governance, in a first of its kind project for India's nuclear power sector, the 10 new units will come up as a fully homegrown initiative," Goyal said.

He said it would be one of the flagship "Make in India" projects in the nuclear power sector. 

The minister said the project will help transform the Indian nuclear industry by linking the goal of a strong nuclear power sector with the country's indigenous industrial capacities in high-end technologies.

"With manufacturing orders to domestic industry, it will be a major step towards strengthening India's credentials as a major nuclear manufacturing powerhouse," Goyal said.

He also linked the decision to the government's clean energy goals and low-carbon growth strategy.

"It supports India's commitment to sustainable development, energy self-sufficiency and bolsters global efforts to combat climate change," he said. 

An official release later said that the project will bring about substantial economies of scale and maximize cost and time efficiencies by adopting fleet mode for execution. 

It said the 10 reactors will be part of India's latest design of 700 MW PHWR fleet and will have state-of-art technology that will meet the highest standards of safety. 

The release said the approval demonstrates a strong belief in the capability of "India's scientific community to build our technological capacities." 

"It underscores the mastery our nuclear scientists have attained over all aspects of indigenous PHWR technology. India's record of building and operating PHWR reactors over the last nearly 40 years is globally acclaimed," the release said. 

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