US regulator offers help to India on export, import of N-technology

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi, Nov 14 | Updated: Nov 16 2008, 04:14am hrs
Even before US companies can invest in the Indian civil nuclear sector, India has to complete the safeguards agreement for its nuclear power plants and sign an international convention on civil liability.

Talking to mediapersons in New Delhi on Friday, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) chairman Dale E Klein, on a two-week trip to India said, "NRC would come forward if there was any issue of import and export of technology and materials related to the nuclear sector."

"But, before that, India has to complete two steps, sign the safeguards agreement with IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and the international convention on civil liability," he said.

Klein will be meeting officials in the Department of Atomic Energy and Atomic Energy Regulatory Board during his India visit.

The NRC chief in his address at a session on India-US cooperation in nuclear energy, organised by the CII, said, "For private companies, this (convention) provides a level-playing field. For example, in Turkey where it had called for vendors to apply for operating a nuclear plant, there was no cap on liability. So only Russia had applied, which is not good for international cooperation."

The Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage and Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage limits the liability on the operator of nuclear plants in the case of any accident.

With the expected entry of the private sector in the nuclear industry, signing the international convention becomes imperative.

The current financial crisis would affect the nuclear industry only if global recession leads to a downward trend in the demand for electricity, he said.

According to him, "the credit crunch could potentially impact the growth of energy. But it has not yet translated in slowing of electricity demand. If there is a slowdown (in electricity demand), then fewer reactors will be built."

Klein said that to have a successful domestic nuclear industry, India had to ensure the security of its equipment and human supply chains.

He noted that for a lower electricity demand the slowdown in the economy has to be to a great extent. "There are really no estimates on this," he said, pointing out that the financial slowdown had begun only a couple of months back.

In response to a question, Klein indicated that the China, which sources a part of its nuclear needs from American companies, could in the future sell the nuclear technology to Pakistan.

France through Areva and US company Westinghouse are supplying a certain number of nuclear reactors to China which will definitely granted access to IPRs some technology, he said, noting Beijing would also like to market those technologies.

India is currently negotiating the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage with the IAEA, he said.

"The US can help India by sharing its technology and expertise in the civil nuclear field, both on the academic as well as the business levels," he said.

Earlier, in his address at the seminar, US ambassador to India David Mulford said building a "large, world class, civil nuclear industry in India will take time, capital, ingenuity, competitive technology, a sound regulatory architecture, private sector input, and a true political commitment to excellence".

"Introducing a few more small reactors that produce power for an inefficient electric power system will not produce the results that India is seeking," the US envoy added.