India to seal Westinghouse deal for 6 nuclear reactors

Highlights

India expects to seal a contract with Westinghouse Electric Co LLC to build six nuclear reactors in the first half of next year, a senior government official said, in a sign its $150 billion dollar nuclear power programme is getting off the ground.

New Delhi: India expects to seal a contract with Westinghouse Electric Co LLC to build six nuclear reactors in the first half of next year, a senior government official said, in a sign its $150 billion dollar nuclear power programme is getting off the ground.

The proposed power plant in Gujarat will accelerate India's plans to build roughly 60 reactors, which would make it the world's second-biggest nuclear energy market after China.

India wants to dramatically increase its nuclear capacity to 63,000 MW by 2032, from 5,780 MW, as part of a broader push to move away from fossil fuels, cut greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the dangerous effects of climate change.

The United States signed a pact with India in 2008, opening the way for nuclear commerce that had previously been stymied due to New Delhi's nuclear weapons programme and shunning of the global Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

But hopes that reactor makers would get billions of dollars of new business evaporated after India adopted a law in 2010 giving the state-run Nuclear Power Corp of India Ltd (NPCIL) the right to seek damages from suppliers in the event of an accident.

Indian officials have been trying to assuage suppliers' concerns, including by setting up an insurance pool with a liability cap of Rs 1,500 crore. A final hurdle – ratification of the International Atomic Energy Agency's Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC) – is expected within weeks, the Indian government official said.

The CSC requires signatories to shift liability to the operator and offers access to relief funds.

In a statement, Westinghouse said it expected India would move towards a framework that satisfies the CSC and channels accident liability exclusively to the operator. The statement made no reference to ongoing negotiations.

A deal with Westinghouse, a unit of Toshiba Corp, could also put pressure on General Electric Co, whose nuclear energy venture with Hitachi was offered a site six years ago to build reactors.

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