India eyes to join NSG states

Himalayan News Service:

India has not only stepped up its diplomacy with the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) countries to allow it to access civil nuclear technology and fuel but may also become a supplier of low-cost nuclear reactors to other countries by joining the NSG.

India’s nuclear establishment is riding high after the Kaiga 3 nuclear power reactor in Karnataka, developed by Indian engineers, achieved criticality early this week. The 220 MW pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR) will start delivering power at the end of this month.

Glowing in the success of this venture, Anil Kakodkar, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, has said that completing the nuclear power plant, along with low costs, in five years has set an international benchmark.

Given the low costs - Rs 984 ($22.33) per installed KW - Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) is now eyeing the export market for nuclear reactors. India is confident of exporting the design to countries like Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam for just Rs 1,200 ($27.24) per KW, which is substantially less than the international average of $1,500 per KW, a senior NPCIL official said over the phone from Mumbai.

With the lucrative export market for low-cost nuclear reactors in mind and its new international standing driven by its growing economy and a defining civil nuclear deal with the US, India also plans to make a pitch for joining the NSG at an appropriate time, reliable sources revealed.

But before India, a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, actually starts exporting nuclear reactors, it must first win support of the 45-nation NSG that controls global trade in nuclear technology and fuel for the India-US civil nuclear deal.

The NSG will take a call on India’s case only after New Delhi and Washington have finalised a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement. Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon presented a draft of the 123 agreement for discussions with US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns during his visit to the US last month.

The US Congress has to approve the 123 agreements with an up and down vote to be followed by a nod from the NSG before actual nuclear commerce starts between the two countries. The US and Russia have already announced that they would use their clout in the NSG to amend the cartel’s guidelines in favour of nuclear commerce with India.

Shyam Saran, the prime minister’s special envoy on the India-US civil nuclear deal, plans to visit all major NSG countries to garner support for nuclear deal that will open the doors of global nuclear commerce to India after nearly a three-decade hiatus.

Saran has already visited Japan, Sweden and Norway, known for their special sensitivities on

nuclear non-proliferation and sought their support for the deal.