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We will be interested in nuclear power: Tata

Friday 24 February 2006, by JAYANTH*V.

Provided Government of India does permit private sector participation

Points to power shortage, dependence on fossil fuel Clean safe sustainable nuclear programme welcome Looking at pilot programme for bio fuel Praises impetus in infrastructure sector

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Ratan Tata

CHENNAI: If the Government of India does permit the private sector to participate in a nuclear energy development programme, the Tata group "will certainly be interested," its Chairman Ratan Tata has said.

In a brief and informal exchange with The Hindu and Business Line here on Thursday, Mr. Tata said: "If the nuclear alignment does happen and if at all the Government does permit the private sector to participate, yes, we will definitely be interested. I think we are short of power. We are dependent on fossil fuel and susceptible to high air pollution from the power plants."

Citing the case of France, he said: "If, in fact, we have a major nuclear power programme, it will be very welcome, a sustainable nuclear programme which is clean and safe." But it was up to the Government to decide and enunciate a policy.

Mr. Tata was here to participate in the launch of The Hindu Business Line after its comprehensive redesign.

For coal-based power

On the power situation, he said "there is adequate coal in India and I have recommended to the Government that our thermal power programme must be coal-based, but we need to adequately treat the emissions and use the clean-coal technology. I think it will make a lot of sense to have more coal-based thermal power projects with either domestic or imported coal."

Asked if the Tatas were looking at renewable energy sources, he replied: "We are looking at [a] pilot plant for biofuel. We can grow in a certain area near our fertilizer plant. We have to calibrate the costs. Theoretically they could become the kind of produce for rural communities, a kind of cash crop for farmers that could be refined into ethanol. We need not use sugar or sugarcane to produce ethanol. Biofuels can produce the kind of energy security the country needs. We are looking at the kind of crop, moisture, and yield to calibrate the costs."

Was the telecom project of the Tata group alone lagging behind?

"It is a new business of the Tata group and so it has lagged behind because different pieces have to come together with the structures and ownership pattern to provide end-to-end communication services to the customer. Until they can structurally come together and become one, the next best thing is to create a single brand that we could put across to all the customers. We have a long way to go to improve quality of service. We have an all-India network. I think you will see us rising to the expectations of the customers soon."

Mr. Tata had a word of praise for the impetus in the infrastructure sector. "We are pleasantly surprised at the progress in the road sector and large infrastructure projects. The multiplier effect after they are in place will be quite spectacular to the country."

In response to a question on the partnership with the Fiat group, Mr. Tata said: "We are going to distribute Fiats through our dealer network. It is very early to say what we will do, but Fiat is a very great company. They have gone through problems and are emerging. We are talking about what we can do together."

See online : The Hindu

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