October 2008

India-U.S. atomic accord awaits Congress; Automation market vast

The end to India's nuclear pariah status paves the way for atomic fuel, technology sales, and automation projects worth tens of billions of dollars.

India is waiting for Congressional action before signing off on what could be the most profitable technology and building rush ever.

A host of companies from Westinghouse Electric and General Electric and France's state-controlled Areva to Russia's atomic energy agency Rosatom are all scrambling for a slice of India's lucrative civilian nuclear technology market. More companies are poised to join the fray.
The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a multinational body concerned with reducing nuclear proliferation and which controls the sale of nuclear technology, cleared civilian nuclear commerce with India in early September.

That was a key step in sealing the India-U.S. atomic technology accord signed by President George W. Bush and Indian Premier Manmohan Singh in 2005.

The decision, which ended a 34-year embargo, gives India the right to buy nuclear reactors from abroad and access to nuclear fuel on the global market.

The U.S.-India Business Council, one of the champions of the nuclear pact between New Delhi and Washington, said the NSG's decision could unlock nuclear energy investment in India worth more than $100 billion.

India state-owned Nuclear Power Corp.-the monopoly nuclear power generator-is readying to place orders that will form the first phase of the country's plan to build 40,000 megawatts of nuclear capacity by 2020, according to Indian media reports.

According to U.S. forecasts, India will import at least eight nuclear reactors by 2012.

Energy-hungry India, where many areas endure blackouts lasting 12 hours or more, has not had access to foreign civilian nuclear technology since it tested a nuclear weapon in 1974 and refused to sign the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty.

Technically India is now free to trade on the world market.

However, India said it would seek to clinch international nuclear deals only after the U.S. Congress clears the India-U.S. atomic agreement.

Nicholas Sheble (nsheble@isa.org) edits Government News.