20 September 2008

This is a really big deal

The Government of India has massively upped its estimate of the amount of megawattage it intends to buy from American nuclear vendors. That means essentially Westinghouse-Toshiba and GE-Hitachi. Of course, none of this can happen without the differences in interpretation over fuel supply assurances being sorted out and India receiving permanent reprocessing consent rights. Or can it?

20 September 2008
The Hindu

India offers 10,000 MW of nuclear contracts to U.S.

Siddharth Varadarajan

New Delhi: Whether as bait or actual commitment, the United Progressive Alliance government has promised the United States that India will acquire 10,000 MW worth of nuclear power generating capacity from American firms — more than what it is currently negotiating to buy from Russia and France combined.

This startling figure lay buried in the testimony — or “testimoney” — of William Burns, U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington on September 18.

“The Indian government,” said Mr. Burns, “has provided the United States with a strong Letter of Intent, stating its intention to purchase reactors with at least 10,000 Mega Watts (MWe) worth of new power generation capacity from U.S. firms.” India, he added, “has committed to devote at least two sites to U.S. firms.” Until recently official U.S. expectations of contracts in the nuclear arena were pegged much lower. In testimony to Congress in 2006, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had spoken of the U.S. building only one or two reactors.

In its January 16, 2008, replies to Congress, the U.S. State Department said India indicated it planned to import at least eight 1000 MWe reactors by 2012 from international sources. In a cautious vein, the State Department spoke of the employment spin-offs “if American vendors win just two of these reactor contracts.”

But some time between January and September, India appears to have sweetened the deal by sending across a “strong Letter of Intent” for the purchase of at least 10 U.S. reactors over an undefined time period.

Speaking to The Hindu on condition of anonymity, official sources familiar with India’s current plans for the expansion of nuclear power said Mr. Burns’s figure indicated two things. “The government appears to have dramatically scaled up both the amount of new nuclear generating capacity it wants built as well as the share within that for imported light water reactors,” said a senior official.

Under the current plans of 20,000 MWe worth of nuclear power by 2020, half that amount is supposed to come from India’s indigenous pressurised heavy water reactors, 2,000 MWe from its fast breeder reactors, and 8,000 MW from imported LWRs. With Russia already building two 1,000 MWe reactors at Koodankulam, that leaves 6,000 MWe of capacity to be apportioned between Russia, France and the U.S.

“But if the target is being hiked to 30,000 MWe or higher, then obviously the share of imported LWRs is also being scaled up.” In a recent speech, Atomic Energy Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar spoke of India importing up to 40,000 MWe of LWRs by 2020. Even so, officials are surprised by the scale of the promise India appears to have made to the U.S. “Even if the number of imported LWRs increases dramatically, the fact is the Americans are in third position in terms of technology,” said an official, expressing surprise that U.S. companies like GE and Westinghouse — which lag far behind their Russian and French counterparts in technological terms and have not built new reactors in the U.S. for decades — could eventually get such a large order.


Anonymous said...

It is true that America lags behind France and Russia in terms of nuclear reactor construction and technology. But there is not going to be a status quo on that front. The US has a huge stockpile of waste from its weapons program that needs to be disposed off. Reprocessing them to fuel for nuclear reactors is one such plan.
Already there is such a type of strong program called Megaton to Megawatts to secure the radioactive material in the former Soviet states by supplying fuel to US reactors.

The US has also initiated GenIV nuclear energy systems and GNEP programs to revitalize its nuclear industry and from the US perspective the US-India deal is just another sweetner towards that main goal.

Another interesting question about the US-India deal would be whether the US would allow Indian students to take part in their nuclear engineering education programs. I also see potential for growth on that front in the Indian education sector if there is a true renaissance of nuclear energy post US-India deal.

Anonymous said...

Sad yet expected one; the dramas at various international stages happened were for the permanent shift in FP. US has not given the 'law binding' assurance but it has a 'political commitment' to give the uninterrupted N-fuel!! Now India has to do what ever USA tells for complying with Hyde act. It may need to deregulate market. It may need to complete the finance reformations for ‘unleashing’ the market for ‘innovations’. It may need to send arms and troops to Iran, or where ever in the world according to US forces plans for exporting ‘democracy’; otherwise fate of Tarapoor is eying us.

At this point it may be felt as exaggerated, but things are going really bad.


superlinks said...


Anonymous said...

So, drip by drip the truth of what back room deal went on will emerge. It will be relegated to the back pages but we'll be sucked little by little into the US empire.

Why many of us are deeply suspicious of the deal is an understanding from history of how the US works. It is not a question of believing in conspiracies as much as understanding the depth to which an aggressive behaviour to protect an imperial system is rooted. (Look up something called the Office of Net Assessment in the Pentagon as just one known policy think-tank calling the shots).

Anonymous said...

@ Siddharth,

What is this we hear from the French Ambassador that the reprocessing and enrichment technology are not a part of the agreement and another will have to be signed to cover the same.

Any thoughts on that please. Why would be buy reactors from them if we can't the reqd technology?