United States firm Westinghouse Electric and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd on Wednesday signed a preliminary pact for an Early Works Agreement for installation of the first 1,000 MW American nuclear reactor in India under the historic 2008 Indo-US civil nuclear deal.
The announcement of the signing of the MoU, which represents a significant milestone towards the realisation of the Indo-US nuclear deal, coincided with the third Indo-US Strategic Dialogue headed by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and External Affairs Minister S M Krishna.
The MoU with the NPCIL related to negotiating an EWA supporting future construction of 1,000 MW nuclear power reactors at the Mithivirdi site in Bhavnagar district in Gujarat. The EWA will include preliminary licensing and site development work.
"This (MoU) is a significant step towards fulfillment of our landmark civil nuclear cooperation agreement," Hillary said at a joint news conference with Krishna.
Referring to the signing of the MoU, Clinton, however, said there is still lot of work to be done including understanding the implications of the civil nuclear liability law. US nuclear companies have voiced reservations at some provisions of the liability legislation.
Clinton said the MoU committed both sides to work towards the preliminary licensing and site development work needed to begin construction of new reactors in Gujarat.
"This agreement is an important step which will allow Westinghouse and NPCIL to continue the work necessary for keeping the Mithivirdi project moving forward," said Gary Urquhart, vice president and managing director of Westinghouse India.
NPCIL has already initiated pre-project activities in Mithivirdhi with ground breaking planned in the current year or early next year.
The technical negotiations between Westinghouse and NPCIL got a major boost when the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission certified early this year the US firm's latest version of the AP-1000 reactor, the same reactor which the company has proposed to set up in Gujarat.
The Department of Atomic Energy had sought a specific safety approval from US nuclear regulators on the AP-1000 series after the Fukushima incident.
The AP-1000 nuclear power plant is licensed in both the US and China, and is recognised as the safest, most advanced Generation III+ design.
Rather than relying on active components such as diesel generators and pumps, it relies on the natural forces of gravity, natural circulation, and compressed gases to keep the core and containment from overheating, according to a company statement.
Westinghouse Electric Company, a group company of Toshiba Corporation, is the world's pioneering nuclear energy company and a leading supplier of nuclear plant products and technologies to utilities throughout the world.