Canada is poised to sign a deal with India to sell nuclear technology and materials to the energy-starved South Asian nation, Canada's international trade minister said Wednesday.
The pact will open up the lucrative Indian market to Canadian nuclear exports for the first time in more than three decades.
"We're very close to having an agreement with India related to the civilian use of nuclear energy for the purpose of helping them meet their energy needs," said Trade Minister Stockwell Day, who would not say exactly when the deal will be signed.
A senior Indian diplomat told the Press Trust of India on Wednesday that negotiators are on the verge of finalizing the pact. Shashishekhar M Gavai, India's high commissioner to Canada, told the news agency that Canadian and Indian officials have exchanged the draft agreement.
Gavai could not be reached for comment Wednesday. In January, Day announced that government-owned Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. had signed a memorandum of understanding with India for next-generation nuclear reactors.
It was a turning point for Canada, which stopped nuclear co-operation with India in 1974 after its government, used plutonium from a Canadian reactor to build an atomic bomb.
The international community lifted a three-decade ban on nuclear trade with India last September even though India still refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Some anti-nuclear activists worry India will stockpile domestic uranium for military weapons and use uranium imports for civilian purposes.
Canadian negotiators insisted India allows nuclear inspectors into civilian facilities, Day said. Under the deal Canadian nuclear exports cannot be used for military purposes, added Day. Now that the moratorium has ended, countries are lining up to sell nuclear technology to India, which wants to build 25 to 30 new reactors in the coming years.
"The estimation is over the next 20 years, something like anywhere from CA$50 ($44) to CA$150 billion ($133 billion) worth of civil nuclear energy needs are what we're looking at," Day said. On Tuesday, a senior executive from AECL told Canada's finance committee the corporation is eyeing foreign markets for its next-generation ACR 1000 reactors.
AECL signed a deal earlier this year with a leading Indian engineering firm to start costing out the ACR 1000s, the prelude to a possible sale.
Saskatchewan's Cameco Corp. is also poised to sell uranium to India. But Canada and India must finalise a formal deal before any commercial deals are inked.