India has committed to buy nuclear reactors from US firms: Burns

September 23rd, 2008 - 12:39 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 22 (IANS) In an attempt to ensure the nuclear deal is ready for signature when President George W. Bush meets Prime Minister Manmohan Singh later this week, the Bush administration has told Congress that India has committed itself to buy nuclear reactors from US firms and to devote “at least two sites” for them.William Burns, US under secretary of state for political affairs, in his testimony before the US Congress last week said a “strong Letter of Intent” has been given by the Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon in which he made this commitment.

“The Indian government has provided the US with a strong Letter of Intent, stating its intention to purchase reactors with at least 10,000 Mwe worth of new power generation capacity from US firms,” Burns has told Congress.

He added, “India has committed to devoting at least two sites to US firms.”

The nuclear deal is now before the US Congress for its final nod. It can only be ready for signature once it gets the approval of Congress.

But all attempts are being made by the Bush administration to ensure Congress passes the 123 agreement without further delay.

President Bush will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Washington Thursday.

The prime minister who left for the US Monday afternoon said he “looked forward to the meeting with President Bush” that will allow the two sides to discuss the entire range of their bilateral relations including cooperation on civil nuclear energy.

Burns has argued before the US Congress that any delay on their part to clear the 123 agreement will unnecessarily put American firms in a disadvantageous position vis-à-vis other international companies.

“International competition will, inevitably, be intense and we want to avoid exposing US firms to any unnecessary delays,” Burns said.

The external affairs ministry had issued a statement last week saying that it had already begun negotiations with the US, French and Russian firms on civil nuclear energy cooperation.

Sources said that the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPC) has already begun talks with Westinghouse and GE-two leading American firms in the field of civil nuclear energy.

Talks are also on with some leading French and Russian companies whose expertise in the field of civil nuclear energy are well known.

From the US, Manmohan Singh will also visit France to participate in the India-European Union Summit in Marseilles Sep 29 and for a bilateral meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris the next day.

One of the main focus of his talks with the French leader will be on civil nuclear energy cooperation.

India and France have “initialled” an agreement on civil nuclear energy cooperation, were yet to conclude it. The agreement may be concluded during the prime minister’s visit to Paris.

The French government has already made it clear that it was willing to offer India its “first generation” EPR nuclear reactor that was being built by Areva.

France has also indicated its willingness to consider any request that India may make on cooperation in enrichment and reprocessing technology.

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