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India to buy first N-reactors, from France

India’s nuclear isolation ended when Paris agreed to sell reactors and fuel to Delhi. This French factor comes 24 days after the NSG amended its guidelines governing civil atomic commerce, writes Varghese K George.

world Updated: Oct 01, 2008 10:13 IST
Varghese K George
Varghese K George
Hindustan Times

India’s nuclear isolation ended on Tuesday when Paris agreed to sell reactors and fuel to Delhi. This French factor comes just 24 days after the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) amended its guidelines governing civil atomic commerce.

After his talks with President Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said “France is the first country with whom we have entered into such an agreement after”, after international curbs on civil nuclear cooperation with India were lifted.

The pact effectively ends the 34-year-old sanctions imposed by the NSG after India conducted its first nuclear test in 1974.

India has managed to retain its nuclear deterrent, build more atomic weapons and yet be able to source civil nuclear technology from NSG nations.

India is likely to sign a similar pact with Russia in December. A pact with the United States, once Congress clears the 123 agreement, is also on the cards.

Reactors and technology worth billions of dollars will be sourced from NSG nations.

Singh said “France and President Sarkozy helped us a great deal” in obtaining the NSG approval, which “enable us to develop our civilian nuclear industry”.

“We will now implement full cooperation within the framework of a long-term global agreement,” said Singh in an interview to Le Figaro, a leading French daily.

Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar, who signed the accord with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, said that talks have begun to translate the pact into action.

“We have to reach a techno-economic configuration that allows cost-effective production of electricity,” he said, adding that the process has to consider the “local factors also”.

Kakodkar said India would also like to buy the third-generation European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs), developed through Franco-German collaboration. Already, the French have expressed their desire to sell such reactors to India.

In per capita terms, France is the largest nuclear power generator, and in terms of total installed capacity it is second to the US — Nuclear sources take care of 78.5 per cent of France’s power needs.

Politically, the nuclear pact with France will help the UPA government stem criticism that it was making India dependent on the US.