India’s nuclear dawn will begin in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu where the first reactors imported under the hard-fought waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group will be set up. The Manmohan Singh government has already finalised plans to buy six nuclear reactors from France for Maharashtra and four from Russia for Tamil Nadu. A government source acquainted with the plans said that the state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India has almost completed the process of acquiring land for the Maharashtra project in the Ratnagiri area. In Tamil Nadu, four new plants will be set up in Koodankulam where two reactors from Russia have already been commissioned and two more are under construction. Together, they will boost the states’ energy supply by 11,000 MW. Maharashtra will get 7,000 MW from six reactors, four of 1,000 MW each and two of 1,500 MW while Tamil Nadu will get 4,000 MW from four light water Russian reactors. The source revealed that the plans were put in place even before the NSG waiver came through. In fact, a delegation from Areva, France’s leading manufacturer of pressurised reactors, had visited Maharashtra early this year to inspect the sites. Now all that remains is to ink the agreement. This is likely after prime minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to France on his way back from the UN general assembly meet at the end of September. He is expected to sign the long-delayed French equivalent of the Indo-US civil nuclear energy cooperation agreement during his Paris visit, paving the way for purchases from Areva. The source was reluctant to disclose financial details about the deals with France’s Areva and Russia’s Rosatom till they are signed. But industry sources estimate that they will run into several million dollars. Sudhinder Thakur, executive director of NPCIL, recently hinted at the advanced stage of the projects in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.He was quoted as saying, “It is not right to say that France and Russia have been given the sites for reactors. But it is not wrong either. It is known that we have commenced preparatory work of land acquisition and infrastructure building at four places. We have enjoyed long-term cooperation with the Russians and the French.’’ While the government hopes to press ahead with these projects quickly so that the benefits of the contentious nuclear deal start flowing as soon as possible, those familiar with the process feel that it will take at least four to five years to set up the power plants and maybe a couple of years more to actually commission them. The government also has to decide the modalities of letting private players into the sensitive nuclear energy sector. At present, nuclear power is the monopoly of NPCIL. However, the private sector is keen to enter this field and foreign players like Areva are equally keen to join hands with private Indian partners. The government will have to amend India’s Atomic Energy Act to allow private participation in nuclear power generation. Given the contentious nature of the issue, the process may take more time than expected.