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USIBC hails India's allocation of nuke sites

Last updated on: July 17, 2009 12:37 IST

Ron SomersThe Indian government's identification of two 'greenfield' sites for commercial nuclear development, that will utilise US technology has been welcomed by the US-India Business Council (USIBC).

Calling it a 'significant step' towards implementing the civil nuclear initiative, between the two countries, USIBC said that the allotment of the sites by India on the eve of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to India is a 'welcome transition' from conceptualising US-India civil nuclear cooperation to actual implementation.

"Companies like General Electric and Westinghouse, supported by other major US  suppliers, will now be able to commence site work, perform geotechnical investigations, and complete feasibility studies - all necessary steps that lead to actual implementation and eventual generation of carbon-free nuclear power," said Ron Somers, president of the USIBC, the Washington-based trade group that championed the change in US law that ended the ban preventing India from accessing international commercial nuclear technology.

Sites of significant acreage, which will provide future unit expansion as well as forested buffer zones, have been identified by Indian government for implementation of US technology in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

"These are both excellent locations where the people of these states appreciate and understand the benefits of reliable electric supply, and where human talent to erect and maintain these state of the art facilities is plentiful," Somers said.

India was admitted last year to the 45-Nation Nuclear Suppliers' Group, comprising all countries engaged in civil nuclear trade. India has already allocated nuclear 'parks' to Russia and France.

The US firms have been eagerly awaiting this present allocation, so feasibility planning, site development, and actual implementation by US companies may also now begin.

Both Westinghouse and General Electric stand to be the main beneficiaries of the recent Indian announcement regarding site allocation supporting US technologies. These companies have been established in India for decades.

These firms, together with many others, including Bechtel, URS, The Shaw Group, Babcock & Wilcox, Dow Chemical, Lockheed Martin, The Boeing Company, Oracle, and Federal Express joined together in 2005 as the Coalition for Partnership with India, formed by USIBC and US Chamber of Commerce to articulate to elected officials on Capitol Hill the importance of supporting India's energy security imperative.

It also wanted to impress upon US lawmakers the environmental benefits of India attaining commercial nuclear technology, as well as to present the commercial opportunities inherent in civil nuclear cooperation for both US and Indian firms.

This allocation of sites, which will be formally announced during Clinton's visit to India, is New Delhi's fulfillment of its commitment that if the US  helped India gain access to civil nuclear technology, US companies would have the opportunity to participate in India's  nuclear build-out.

India proposes developing at least 30,000 MW of nuclear power over the next 20 years, valued at more than $150 billion.

"With this major milestone, we now look forward to India allowing the full-scale participation of the dynamic Indian private sector in India's civil nuclear build-out. As India's private sector joins in this activity, Indian firms will seek, as US firms do, limits on liability in the event of a mishap," he said.

US companies have been pressing India to sign-on to the international Convention of Supplementary Compensation, which would limit liability to privately held companies in the event of an accident.

"Today's allotment of nuclear sites for US technology is a welcome first step towards what promises to be a long and fruitful partnership between US and Indian companies," Somers said.

Suman Guha Mozumder in New York