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Friday, January 9, 2009

US nuclear trade team to visit India next week

A US trade mission, which will include representatives of General Electric, Westinghouse and USEC Inc, will visit India this week to hold talks with the government on how to leverage spinoffs from the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement, Shyam Saran, the prime minister’s special envoy on the Indo-US nuclear deal, has said.

Although the signing of the Indo-US deal on October 10, 2008, will remove the technology-denial regimes for nuclear material as well as dual-use technologies and open a plethora of opportunities for private players, it is too early to comment if foreign companies can set up nuclear power plants, according to Saran.

He added the government was cautious in this regard since India’s civilian and nuclear programmes were enmeshed. Under the separation plan that is part of the Indo-US nuclear deal, the separation will be completed by 2014.

However, in the interim, the private sector can participate in collaborative ventures with Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL). However, the government did not have a “closed mind” on private sector participation, he added.

Saran, speaking at the Fifth Indo-US Economic Summit in New Delhi, said with the path being cleared for India to freely access the international nuclear market, it could scale up nuclear power production to 20,000 Mw by 2020 and can reach 60,000 Mw by 2030.

Currently, nuclear power comprises less than 4 per cent of India’s total power output. The nuclear deal will also help the Department of Atomic Energy shift gears by procuring adequate uranium from nuclear supplies and operationalise its three-stage nuclear programme from the current uranium-based reactors to thorium- and plutonium-based reactors.

Saran said India and foreign companies would now be in the position to strengthen manufacturing capabilities for certain components in nuclear and allied industries.

India’s lack of access to dual-use technologies had affected it in many civilian and non-military areas, especially in the private sector, said Saran. On liability and insurance, he said the matter would be considered by the Union Cabinet.

India has to sign the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage for US firms to do business in India, according to Eric Anthony Jones, first secretary (economic affairs), US Embassy.

(Source: Business Standard)

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