Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and French President Nicolas Sarkozy agreed to discuss a civilian nuclear-cooperation agreement, which may help India to plug a power shortage using reactors from companies such as Areva SA.
France wants global consensus for India to get a waiver from the International Atomic Energy Agency that will allow the country to use civil nuclear energy, Sarkozy said at a news conference with Singh in New Delhi today. The leaders did not give a timeframe.
India needs civilian nuclear technology from the U.S., France, Russia and other nations to meet its target of adding 40,000 megawatts of nuclear power by 2020 as demand increases in the world's second-fastest growing major economy. India plans to negotiate a safeguards agreement with IAEA as part of steps to implement a U.S. nuclear energy accord.
“France has been a very valuable voice, supportive of India's aspirations in the nuclear domain,'' said C. Uday Bhaskar, an independent strategy analyst in New Delhi. The possible nuclear agreement with France shows that India is opening up to the global nuclear market, he said.
India should be given approval for the safeguards agreement with the IAEA, President Sarkozy said. The agreement with the global nuclear regulator should take place “in a matter of weeks,'' he said.
Apart from negotiations with the IAEA, India will have to reach separate agreements with the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group.
India needs to add to the 3 percent nuclear power that comes from Russian-designed reactors and reduce its reliance on coal- fired power plants which form 57 percent of the country's 122,000-megawatt production. The country currently faces a peak power shortfall of as much as 13 percent.
The two nations agreed that India will take part in building an experimental nuclear reactor in France, Singh said.
France will back offers from Paris-based Areva, the world's biggest nuclear plant maker, to sell reactors to India after the IAEA agrees on safety rules and the country moves on to an “operational phase,'' Sarkozy said.
Approval from the IAEA and the Nuclear Suppliers' Group will end a 34-year ban on nuclear deals with India, imposed after the nation first tested a nuclear weapon in 1974.
State-run monopoly atomic energy producer Nuclear Power Corp. of India is in talks with France's Areva and three other overseas companies, to buy 1,000-megawatt reactors, Nuclear Power Chairman S.K. Jain said on Aug. 9.
Nuclear Power plans to place orders worth $14 billion to buy Areva's serial design for building 1,000-megawatt reactors, the AP1000 series of reactors from Toshiba Corp.'s Westinghouse Electric Co., the `ABWR' series from General Electric Co. and the Russian VVR 1,000 reactors made by Rosatom.
The U.S. deal signed in 2006 has been held up by differences over whether India would get a perennial supply of nuclear fuel, be allowed to reprocess spent fuel and have the right to conduct nuclear tests.
India signed a similar civilian nuclear agreement with Russia in January. Russia is helping India build two 1,000- megawatt light water reactors at the Kudankulam nuclear power station in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.