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Posted at: Mar 15, 2019, 7:00 AM; last updated: Mar 15, 2019, 2:25 PM (IST)

US renews push for nuclear plants in India

6 power projects in offing, obstacles stay
US renews push for nuclear plants in India

Sandeep Dikshit

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 14

The US is once again pushing ahead with its long-stalled plan for a lucrative business deal with India for setting up six nuclear power plants. The latest thrust came during a visit to Washington of an Indian delegation led by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale when the US State Department ensured that the subject remained in the top half of the agenda.

It was in 2005 that India promised six nuclear plants each to the US, France and Russia in exchange for ending India’s isolation from mainstream nuclear trade after its 1974 nuclear tests. 

Since then, only the Russian project is up and running while the French are grappling with land acquisition headaches in the backyard of Shiv Sena in Maharashtra.

The Americans were allotted the more conducive Andhra Pradesh but their plans went into a tailspin due to a series of disagreements capped by Toshiba-Westinghouse filing for bankruptcy.

However, there are two obstacles to tide over before Westinghouse can hope to get into the business end. Like the French company Areva, Westinghouse too has to demonstrate that it is operating a plant of the same design it intends setting up in India. As a source put it, “Any forward movement will depend on the operation of reference plant of a similar design in the US.” That is still some years away. The second is that the plant will have to produce electricity at reasonable rates. Russia has stolen a march on both the counts.

Westinghouse has top-level US backing. A year back, US Energy Secretary said Westinghouse was “lean and mean and ready to get to work” on India projects. But till the cost-effectiveness of the AP plant is established, the deal will represent the untapped potential of Indo-US ties. 

Hanging fire 

  • In 2005, India promised six nuclear plants each to the US, France and Russia 
  • The aim was to end India’s isolation from mainstream nuclear trade after 1974  
  • While Russian project is on track, the French and US ones are struggling

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