Monday, March 15, 2010

India expands Russian reactor deal

putin-singh_1India 'Roadmap' includes four more Russian reactors at Kudankulam . . . but ruling coalition withdraws bill to cap liability for U.S. firms after protests from left-wing parties

15 March (NucNet): India has agreed a ‘roadmap’ for the construction of further nuclear power plants in the country in cooperation with Russia.

Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh said on March 12 that the roadmap for additional nuclear plants was agreed during a visit to the country last week by Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin.

India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) said the roadmap outlines timelines for steps to be taken for the construction of units 3 and 4 at the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in the state of Tamil Nadu in the south of India.

The roadmap also provides for the construction units 5 and 6 at Kudankulam and two reactors at Haripur in West Bengal in eastern India.

Two Russian VVER-1,000 reactor units are already under construction at Kudankulam. According to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL), those units are scheduled to begin commercial operation in September 2010 and March 2011.

The roadmap includes plans for a progressive shift to Indian-based for reactors to be constructed in collaboration with Russia beyond the level already being planned for Kudankulam-3 and 4.

In December 2009, both countries signed an agreement to increase civilian nuclear energy cooperation that is likely to see Russia building four nuclear reactor units at Kudankulam in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

Indian Congress deals setback to U.S. firms

lawsuitThe Los Angeles Times reports that the Indian government’s effort to place a $385 million cap on liability for construction and operation of new nuclear plants was frozen by the government’s decision to withdraw the bill rather than face a showdown with left-wing parties. The action is a setback for U.S. firms seeking to enter the Indian nuclear market, especially G.E. Hitachi, which has plans to open a nuclear reactor components manufacturing center there for domestic projects and exports.

Opposition to the bill, which would have set a limit on liability in the event of a nuclear accident, came from members of the lower house in Parliament. They accused the government of “safeguarding the interests of the U.S. at the expense and safety of the Indian people.”

Bloomberg reported that if the legislation is not passed, it will lock U.S. firms out of the Indian nuclear market which expects to build 20 GWe of electrical generation capacity by 2030.

According to wire service reports, Indian Science & Technology Minister Prithviraj Chavan said he needed to reevaluate support for the measure. "There is no urgency to introduce the bill."

The intensity of the debate is driven by memories of the 1984 Bhopal Gas accident at a Union Carbide plant in which over 8,000 people died and 10,000 were injured. In December 2009, 25 years after the event, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the BBC, "The enormity of that tragedy of neglect still gnaws at our collective conscience."

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SteveK9 said...

I've read that this is not a factor for Areva and Rosatom as they are state-owned companies. I wonder if there is any explicit limit to their liability and if not, why India would assume this was an open-ended guarantee. Of course it appears that the Indian government recognizes the logic of limited liability for the private companies. Perhaps the political opposition is just using this to score points. GE-Hitachi doesn't seem to be having a lot of luck at the moment in selling their designs. I noticed Turkey signed some sort of agreement with Korea today (not binding yet I think).

Russ said...

Bhopal is a rallying cry for the left and poor plus any MP that needs a boost.

The İndian government is still sitting on the 500 million dollars provided by Union Carbide - the politicians have yet to figure out how they can steal it - while the affected receive virtually nothing.

Union Carbide also fully funded a hospital which was only half built before the people involved stole the balance amount.

İt is easier for İndia to keep blaming others than to admit to the mess they made of the whole incident.