India, USA extend nuclear cooperation partnership

25 November 2020

India and the USA have extended their Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation on the Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNEP) by 10 years. The centre - officially opened in 2017 - supports international cooperation in nuclear energy applications.

The ministers taking part in the India-USA talks (Image: US Department of State)

The GCNEP, near Bahadurgarh in Haryana state, aims to strengthen India's cooperation with the international community. It houses five schools to conduct research into advanced nuclear energy systems, nuclear security, radiological safety, as well as applications for radioisotopes and radiation technologies. Training facilities include virtual reality laboratories and a radiation monitoring, calibration and accreditation laboratory.

The GCNEP is used for research by Indian and visiting international scientists; training of Indian and international participants; international seminars and group discussions by experts on topical issues; and, development and conduct of courses in association with interested countries and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The extension of the MoU was agreed during the 3rd US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue held in New Delhi on 27 October. The meeting was between US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper, Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Indian Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh.

In a joint statement, dated 24 November, the Indian and US governments said the MoU - originally signed on 7 November 2010 - had been extended in recognition and appreciation of "the strength of the enduring partnership between the two countries on matters of security and reaffirming the important contributions of the US-India nuclear and radiological security cooperation for the benefit of their citizens and the world".

The parties said they have committed to: promote cooperation on initiatives aimed at giving an impetus to nuclear safety and security, research and development in nuclear science and technology under various schools of GCNEP; deepen the dialogue on nuclear and other radioactive material security by collaborating on advanced projects in the field (e.g. future technology), with the goal of sharing the outcomes in the international arena; wider inclusion of agencies of both governments and relevant entities, as appropriate, involved in nuclear and radioactive material security, in order to ensure that the full spectrum of perspectives are shared; and build on the international recognition of the GCNEP, and reinforce that the two countries are partners for nuclear and radioactive material security by jointly developing and/or delivering training and other capacity-building opportunities for regional and international partners, including online content.

Wider nuclear cooperation

India and the USA signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement in 2008 after the international Nuclear Suppliers Group agreed to relax international nuclear trade restrictions against India.

A 27 October joint statement following the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue said: "The US also reaffirmed its continued strong support for India's permanent membership in a reformed United Nations Security Council as well as for India's early entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)."

The 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 to the international Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

Kovvada, in Andhra Pradesh, has been earmarked for the construction of six Westinghouse-designed AP1000 pressurised water reactors, although contractual arrangements have still to be finalised.

The statement added: "Recalling the historic India-US Civil Nuclear Agreement, the Ministers welcomed the project Division of Responsibility principles between the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited and Westinghouse Electric Company for the construction of six nuclear reactors at Kovvada, and looked forward to the detailed Division of Responsibility that would pave the way for a techno-commercial offer."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News