India, USA document their commitment to new build

14 March 2019

India and the USA have committed to strengthen bilateral security and civil nuclear cooperation, including the establishment of six US-designed nuclear power plants in India.

The Strategic Dialogue in session (Image: Embassy of India)

The two governments announced their commitment in a joint statement following the ninth round of the US-India Strategic Security Dialogue, which was held in Washington DC yesterday. The delegations were led by Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson.

"The two sides exchanged views on a wide range of global security and non-proliferation challenges and reaffirmed their commitment to work together to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems and to deny access to such weapons by terrorists and non-state actors," they said.

"They committed to strengthen bilateral security and civil nuclear cooperation, including the establishment of six US nuclear power plants in India. The United States reaffirmed its strong support of India's early membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group."

India's 22 operating nuclear power reactors provide around 3% of its electricity, according to World Nuclear Association. The Indian government is committed to growing its nuclear power capacity as part of its infrastructure development programme, and has seven units under construction. These are: four indigenously designed pressurised heavy water reactors (PWRs), two each at Kakrapar and Rajasthan; two Russian-designed VVER PWRs at Kudankulam; and an indigenously designed prototype fast breeder reactor at Kalpakkam.

Kovvada, in Andhra Pradesh, has been chosen for the construction of six Westinghouse-designed AP1000 PWRs, although contractual arrangements have still to be finalised. India's nuclear liability regime has been a stumbling block for overseas nuclear power plant vendors. India in 2010 passed legislation making nuclear plant operators - and not vendors - primarily liable for any damage caused in the event of an accident up to a certain limit, but an operator could still have legal recourse to the supplier with no upper limit set on supplier liability.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a group of nuclear supplier countries that contributes to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons by controlling the export of materials, equipment and technology that could potentially be used in their manufacture. All of its members, unlike India, are signatories of the international Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). Measures including a comprehensive specific safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, an exception under NSG rules and a round of bilateral nuclear cooperation deals have enabled India to play an increasing part in the international nuclear marketplace.

India applied to join the NSG in May 2016, and the USA has previously pledged to work towards its entry into the group. The NSG at its June 2018 plenary said it "continued to consider all aspects" of its 2008 Statement on Civil Nuclear Cooperation with India and its relationship with the country.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News