‘India, US close to settling nonproliferation assurance issue’


New Delhi: India and the US are near to settling differences over certain contentious regulations of the US Energy Department, which sought “nonproliferation assurance” from New Delhi to take forward the civil nuclear trade.

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“We are quite hopeful of discussions being completed and that authorisation (for nuclear trade) will be obtained fairly soon,” said Timothy Richards, co-chair of the USIBC-CII Joint Task Force on Commercial Nuclear Cooperation.

As per the US regulations, the companies that have applied for “specific authorisation” for transfer of nuclear technology or services to India, will have to obtain written “nonproliferation assurances” from the Indian government.

He was speaking at a press interaction here Monday to mark the latest visit of the US Nuclear Mission to India, organised by the US India Business Council (USIBC).

According to sources, without these assurances, US and Indian companies will not be able to move ahead on “meaningful” discussions for nuclear contracts.

Richards said a lot of deliberations were going on with Indian interlocutors on this issue.

The Indian government had hesitated over this requirement, saying it already had given a host of assurances in the bilateral deal for civil nuclear energy cooperation, commonly known as the 123 Agreement.

The fifth US Commercial Nuclear Mission to India, comprising over 50 officials from companies in the nuclear industry, is co-led by Westinghouse Electric’s vice-president Meena Mutyala and GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s senior vice-president Daniel Roderick.

The other steps to be completed is the allocation of the two sites — Chhayamithi Virdi, in Gujarat and Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh — identified by India for setting up nuclear reactors using American technology.

According to Roderick, the sites are “very good”. He estimated that since they are for 10,000 MW, GE-Hitachi was likely to build six to seven plants on the nuclear parks.

“We are very early in the contracting stage. We are in discussions with NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corp of India),” he said.

According to Mutyala, Westinghouse may have some contracts to start site engineering by 2010. But the main contract for nuclear power plants will be done only by 2011, she said.

“There is still lots of work left in terms of sourcing and qualification of equipment and looking at overall cost of the programme.”

India has plans to expand its generating capacity in nuclear energy to 60,000 MW by 2030, which has attracted a lot of interest from foreign companies, especially from US, France and Russia.