Mumbai, Jun 30 (PTI) Larsen & Toubro non-executive chairman A M Naik on Tuesday said he was "apprehensive" about bidding for Rs 1,338-crore ITER's cryostat contract for the world's largest experimental thermo-nuclear fusion reactor in France as it was considered as "too risky" a bet.
The company, which bagged the contract in 2012 from ITER India, a wing of Department of Atomic Energy, to manufacture and install the cryostat, on Tuesday flagged off the last delivery of top lid sectors of the cryostat to the facility in France.
Naik, who had joined the flag off ceremony through a virtual platform, recollected the days of 2011 when he was in doubt whether the company should bid for the project or not.
"At the time when we were quoting in 2011, this project was perceived by L&T and by me in particular...if you want to call me a culprit...as a risk. The contract included construction of large temporary workshops in France within two years of award of contract with capacity of 200 MT and I was very worried about how we would be able to work in France when we have not even dealt with a single French worker," Naik said.
Elaborating on the same, he said that carrying out manufacturing activities in a temporary workshop for five years under very difficult labour laws, long-term exposure to foreign exchange risk, risk associated on the funding side in the multi-nation project and potential chances of technology delays made it a risky bet.
"L&T's management bandwidth and teams executing such an enormous project and that too far from India..this we have never done nor had done before. Hence the project was perceived to be too risky," Naik added.
The 650 MT cryostat assembly, referred to as the Top Lid, is to be installed with other Cryostat segments for ITER in a reactor pit at the project in southern France's Provence.
L&T has delivered the lower cylinder of the Cryostat in March 2019 and upper cylinder in March this year. After this delivery, the only part of the contract remaining is to integrate the Cryostat with the Tokamak Reactor building. The Cryostat's function is to provide cooling to the fusion reactor and to keep very high temperatures at its core under control.
The ITER thermonuclear fusion reactor has been designed to create a plasma of 500 megawatts (thermal) for around twenty minutes while 50 megawatts of thermal power are injected into the tokamak, resulting in a ten-fold gain of plasma heating power.
If successful, it will demonstrate the principle of producing more thermal power from the fusion process than is used to heat the plasma.
The European Union, along with six other countries including India and the US, is carrying out the USD 14.5 billion project targeted to be commissioned in 2025. It involves the construction of one of the largest fusion reactors built since the 1950s.
Naik said that he had sent back the proposal four times when it had come for his approval before ultimately giving the go-ahead to participate in the bidding process.
"What started with a lot of apprehension is coming out as a glorious inning of the last 8 years and another 4-5 years to go as a participant in the world's unique project," he said.
He also thanked L&T Heavy Engineering Executive Vice President and Head, Anil Parab and former L&T whole-time director and president of Heavy Engineering division MV Kotwal for convincing him and ensuring that the project, a pride for both L&T and India, got executed.
Speaking at the event, L&T's Chief Executive and MD S N Subrahmanyan said, "The company has completed another milestone in the development of the world's largest stainless-steel, high-vacuum pressure chamber.
The company has used innovative and digital manufacturing techniques to ensure uninterrupted supply of high-quality, high-precision assemblies to ITER."
He further said this development will further pave a way for the installation of Cryostat at the project site in France and eventually lead to the demonstration of large-scale feasibility of fusion power.
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