Despite n-deal, US firms hampered in setting up reactors in India: Report

January 21st, 2009 - 11:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 21 (IANS) US business executives eyeing India’s estimated $100 billion nuclear pie now suggest there are more hurdles to overcome before they can start setting up reactors and selling fuel to India despite the landmark civil nuclear deal.The executives on the largest-ever US business delegation that met high-level Indian officials, lawmakers and nuclear executives last week say it would take at least two to three years to jump through the bureaucratic hoops, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

Many of the delays involve US nuclear companies that must comply with stringent US laws that prevent them from sharing details of their technology with Indian partners before bureaucratic approval, it said in a report from New Delhi.

Another is India’s insistence that the US allow it the right to reprocess spent fuel before American companies can sell reactors and fuel to it.

Additionally, India needs to pass laws covering liability and patent protection before US companies can do business. The executives cited by the Post said rival companies from France and Russia, which do not have such restrictions, appear to be racing ahead.

As India prepares for national elections in April, the outgoing government appears to have little time to begin the process of enacting a nuclear liability law that facilitates compensation in the event of a catastrophic accident, the US daily said.

Unlike Americans, state-owned French and Russian nuclear companies do not require these laws to do business because they can claim immunity.

“The simple reality is that the French and the Russians are ahead of us. They know the sites that have been identified for them to set up business,” R. Michael Gadbaw, a member of the delegation and a professor at Georgetown University Law Centre, was quoted as saying.

Another hurdle is amending India’s atomic energy law to recognise patents for private companies. An amendment to this law may take more than a year.

On the US side, companies need to comply with “Part 810″ licensing requirements to ensure that there is no re-transfer of American nuclear information and technology from safeguarded required to non-safeguarded facilities within India.

In meetings with potential partners in India, General Electric and Westinghouse kept hitting roadblocks, the Post said citing sources in the delegation.

The most challenging and basic obstacle between the two governments is granting India the right to reprocess spent fuel, which New Delhi needs for its three-stage breeder reactors. Reprocessing also entails the risk of proliferation, the Post said.

Ted Jones, director of energy, environment and enterprise with the US-India Business Council, said Atomic Energy Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar told the US executives that commercial ties can commence only after talks about reprocessing rights are concluded.

But the Post cited an unnamed representative of a US nuclear company as saying that reprocessing consent is likely to be more difficult under the new US administration which may include many “non-proliferation czars”.

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