Despite intense efforts from both sides, the Westinghouse-Toshiba nuclear reactors deal is not expected to be closed by the time Prime Minister Narendra Modi reaches the US on June 7, at the invitation of US President Barack Obama.
“There won’t be any formal announcement during the visit, however, the two sides, at the end of discussions, will read out on the progress with the Westinghouse deal for nuclear reactors,” said a senior official who did not wish to be named.
Several rounds of commercial as well as technology related negotiations have taken place over more than a decade for the US firms to build six nuclear reactors which seem to be stuck due to the Nuclear Operator Liability issue. The contract, when finalised and put in action, is expected to give a big boost to India’s $150-billion nuclear power programme.
Westinghouse has already been allotted a site in Gujarat to build a nuclear power station with total capacity of 2,500 MW and possibility of expansion in future. Similarly, two sites have also been identified for GE plants in Andhra Pradesh with an initial capacity of 3,200 MW.
India and the US had unveiled in 2015 an insurance plan for nuclear plants that aims at shielding equipment suppliers from liability in the event of an accident by transferring the risk to insurers.
Though the plan is still sketchy, it is understood that a `1,500-crore ($226.16 million) insurance pool would be created with participation from the GIC Re and four state-owned general insurance companies with the Centre also pitching in on a later date. The insurance may be bought by the suppliers who would then recoup the cost by charging more for their services or the NPCIL would take out insurance on behalf of these companies.
India has given two sites to US companies — Westinghouse and a nuclear venture between General Electric Co and Hitachi — to build six reactors each.
In January, Westinghouse CEO Daniel Roderick told Reuters that he hoped to be able to sign the deal in March, in time for a visit to Washington by PM Modi to attend a nuclear security summit that starts on Thursday. Recently, he has again been quoted by Reuters as saying the target date was now June.
The deal would be the first nuclear commercial power project since India and the US agreed in 2008 to cooperate in the civil nuclear arena.