Canada, Britain now eye India’s nuclear sector

January 18th, 2009 - 7:50 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 18 (IANS) It seems everybody wants a piece of India’s nuclear pie. Less than a week after a US nuclear industry team visited India, officials from the British and Canadian nuclear power industry will be in the country from Monday to interact with their counterparts in the public and private sectors here.

The signing of the India-US nuclear deal and the change in guidelines for trade with India by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) last year had removed the country from its three-decade-long nuclear isolation.

The Indian nuclear power industry is estimated to be $150 billion once all the doors are opened for the participation of foreign and private firms.

The two teams reaching Monday are being led by high-profile ministers - British Secretary of State for business, enterprise and regulatory reform Peter Mandelson and Canadian Minister of International Trade Stockwell Day.

The British delegation includes officials from Nuclear Industry Association, the umbrella group for the industry, Rolls Royce Nuclear, Urenco Enrichment Co, Thompson Valves, Weir Power, as well as representatives from allied academic and legal fields.

About 20 percent of electricity generated in Britain is nuclear power, but no new nuclear power plants have been built in the last two decades.

This policy has changed recently, with the British government planning more plants. Interestingly, while Britain can build about 70-80 percent of nuclear power plants, the reactor has to be imported from French, American or Russian companies.

According to sources, Britain will be looking at an agreement with India. But, according to the sources, the agreement will not be as detailed and specific as that between India and the US, Russia and France.

The Canadians have had links with India’s nuclear programme since its inception, but all cooperation had ended after the first nuclear test in 1974. India was then accused of taking plutonium from the Cirus reactor that it had got from Canada under the “atoms for peace” programme; India has always denied the charge.

However, Canada has supported the India-US nuclear deal, as well as helped in passing the India-specific safeguards agreement at the International Atomic Energy Agency and removing restrictions of trade with India at NSG.

The Canadian delegation includes officials from Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (nuclear reactor designers), Cameco Corp (uranium suppliers) and SNC-Lavalin Nuclear, a nuclear engineering firm.

However, there is still some way for private firms to barge into the nuclear industry, with the government yet to modify the Atomic Energy Act to allow private sector investment. There is also no civil liability legislation to govern the responsibilities of stakeholders in case of any accidents.

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