US nuclear giant Westinghouse’s bankruptcy filing is unlikely to have an impact on the commercial implementation of the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, but India needs to be extra cautious in its negotiations for setting up nuclear power plants, a top US expert said today. “Westinghouse, in its official press release, indicated that the bankruptcy filing will have no impact on its operations and businesses outside of the US,” Dr Vijay Sazawal, a global civil nuclear trade consultant, said after Westinghouse filed chapter 11 bankruptcy in a New York court. Westinghouse Electric Company is a US unit of Japan’s Toshiba Corporation. The Westinghouse bankruptcy is unlikely to have an impact on civil nuclear deal, but India needs to be cautious in its negotiations with Westinghouse, said Sazawal who served as the subject matter expert on the US-India civil nuclear agreement for the US India Business Council.
The company has secured $ 800 million in financing to ensure that its current operations as well as its present construction projects will continue as before. “That is the good news,” he noted. According to Sazawal, the bad news is mainly for the US utilities that own Westinghouse nuclear projects under construction in the US. “Basically, Westinghouse has backed out of the contracts in place and will renegotiate contracts with those utilities which will have to bear previous cost overruns on their projects,” he said.
“So both Westinghouse and a new potential customer like NPCIL in India will have to be very careful in their financial negotiations in order to ensure that Westinghouse does not back out of its legal and financial obligations if it hits a road bump as it has in its four nuclear power plants under construction in the US and China, with all four plants having exceeded their original cost and schedule commitments,” Sazawal told PTI.
“There is also a possibility that Toshiba may put Westinghouse on sale. Chinese may be interested but it is doubtful that the US will allow that given that some of the Westinghouse operations are extremely strategic to US national security interests,” he said in response to a question. “Bottom line – Westinghouse will be around but for new clients it will be quite challenging,” said Sazawal, who was re-appointed to the Civil Nuclear Trade Advisory Committee (CINTAC) of the US Department of Commerce in December.
Sazawal worked at Westinghouse Electric Corporation in the Advanced Reactors Division as part of the design and technology team working on the Clinch River Breeder Reactor Project. His tenure at Westinghouse lasted 20 years during which time he rose through successive management positions with responsibility for fast reactors, advanced terrestrial and space reactors, nuclear defense programs, and US government programs to promote safety upgrades of Russian-built reactors in Central and Eastern Europe.