Westinghouse, the US arm of Japan’s Toshiba, has said its proposed projects in India -- six nuclear reactors in Andhra Pradesh-- remained unaffected by the company filing for bankruptcy in a New York court on Wednesday.
“We are not abandoning the India bids, as those bids were structured in a manner that does not include construction risk,” Sarah Cassella, external communications manager for Westinghouse, wrote in an email to Hindustan Times.
And a spokesperson for US embassy in Delhi said, “We understand that Westinghouse continues to stand behind the delivery model that it presented in its Technical Commercial Offer to India, which included an Indian construction partner, and looks forward to progress on an agreement in 2017.”
“We reaffirm USG (US government) commitment to civil nuclear cooperation with India,” the spokesman added.
Westinghouse, a one-time industry leader and American icon acquired by Toshiba in 2006, was one of the two US companies selected for constructing nuclear power reactors in India following the landmark 2008 India-US civil nuclear agreement.
Westinghouse and its India partner the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd are expected to wrap up their “contractual agreements” for the six reactors in Andhra by coming June, according to an earlier announcement.
Talk of Westinghouse’s impeding bankruptcy, for some days now, had cast a shadow on the India projects as officials in India and the US and even at the Westinghouse and the parent company Toshiba had seemed uncertain.
Toshiba’s president Satoshi Tsunakawa wasn’t much help in lifting that cloud when he said at a news conference in Toky, “We have all but completely pulled out of the nuclear business overseas.”
But in a statement announcing the bankruptcy, Westinghouse said its “operations in its Asia and Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Regions are not impacted by the Chapter 11 (bankruptcy) filings. Customers in those regions will continue to receive the high-quality products and services they have come to expect in the usual course as the regions.”
Progress on the nuclear plants had been incremental since the signing of the India-US civil nuclear deal, done with great fanfare by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W Bush, principally hobbled by disagreements over liability.
The Indian government and nuclear power operators, and the US, differed on the question of accountability, on who should shoulder how much blame linked to payment of damages and compensation in the event of an industrial accident such as the one at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal.
Things began moving rapidly after President Barack Obama’s 2015 visit to India for the Republic Day parade, when the two countries announced in a joint statement “understandings reached on the issues of civil nuclear liability.”
This was followed up during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s US visit in 2016, when the two countries announced in a joint statement “the start of preparatory work on site in India for six AP 1000 reactors to be built by Westinghouse”.
The same statement noted that Westinghouse and NPCIL had announced that “engineering and site design work will begin immediately and the two sides will work toward finalising the contractual arrangements by June 2017”.