USA pushes reactor deal with India

19 April 2018

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on 17 April, during a visit to in New Delhi, that Washington is seeking to complete the long-awaited Westinghouse nuclear reactor deal for construction at Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh. Perry failed to give a timeline for finalising the contract for six Westinghouse AP1000 reactors, which has been under discussion for 10 years. However, he made clear that Westinghouse would be involved only in the supply of reactors, not in the construction of the power plants.

Perry’s comments came after he and Indian Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan announced a new US-India Strategic Energy partnership. Perry and Pradhan released a joint statement reaffirming “their strong commitment to early and full implementation of our civil nuclear partnership, including the Westinghouse civil nuclear project” as well as an intention to deepen cooperation on oil and gas, power, renewable energy and coal.

The original agreement on the reactors was one of two memoranda of understanding (MOU) signed with India in 2009 following the US-India civil nuclear agreement signed in 2008.  An 'early works agreement' was signed between the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and US-based Westinghouse (part of Toshiba)  in 2013, and a formal agreement to build the reactors was announced in 2016.  However, one MOU with GE-Hitachi has to be abandoned over insurance liability issues while Westinghouse’s bankruptcy filing in 2017 prevented any further progress.  Following Toshiba’s recent sale of Westinghouse to the Canadian Brookfield consortium, Perry said “some challenges in their past, with business practices” were “all behind them” and they were “ready to get to work”.

He added: "The most important development is that Westinghouse is coming out of its bankruptcy" by shedding problematic parts of the company. "Westinghouse is exceptionally good at building reactors. They are the best reactor manufacturer in the world. Their technology is the best in the world. So they are now ready to go, build reactors."

Also during Perry’s visit, India and the USA signed an agreement to collaborate on the development and construction of different types of neutrino detectors. It calls for jointly advancing cutting-edge neutrino science projects, which are already underway. These include the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF) with the international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE)  at the US Department of Energy's (DOE's) Fermilab, and the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO). More than 1000 scientists from some 170 institutions in 31 countries work on LBNF/DUNE, which celebrated its groundbreaking in July 2017. Perry said: "The LBNF/DUNE project hosted by Fermilab in collaboration with our international partners is an important priority for the Department, the Administration, and America's leadership in science.”

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