PM-Trump talks: Civil nuclear deal to figure, no pact on reactors

New Delhi: The Indo-US civil nuclear deal is expected to figure during talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump tomorrow, but a pact between the NPCIL and Westinghouse to build six power reactors in Andhra Pradesh is unlikely to be signed.

A host of strategic issues are expected to be discussed during the parleys between the leaders of the world’s two largest democracies, including the progress on the 2008 civil nuclear deal, according to official sources here.

They said a financial turmoil in Westinghouse and absence of a functional reference atomic plant were the main impediments behind the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited’s (NPCIL) unwillingness to sign the agreement with the American nuclear giant.

According to a joint statement by Modi and the then US president Barack Obama in 2015, both the sides had resolved to work towards “finalising the contractual agreement by June 2017”.

However, a lot of water has flown under the bridge since then.

Westinghouse, which was acquired by Japanese conglomerate Toshiba in 2007, filed for bankruptcy in March.

Apprehending uncertainty, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the NPCIL are unwilling to go ahead with any agreement with the beleaguered company till it comes out of the financial turmoil.

“It is unlikely that we will sign an agreement with Westinghouse when the prime minister visits the US. However, we are making good use of time to hold discussions on techno- commercial aspects,” a senior government official said.

An email sent by PTI to Westinghouse seeking a response from it on the issue was not replied to.

During his visit to the US on June 25-26, Modi is slated to meet Trump.

The Indo-US nuclear cooperation agreement was signed in 2008, under which Westinghouse and GE Hitachi were to build six power reactors each in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

Initially, Westinghouse was allocated the Mithi Virdi site in Gujarat, but was later given the Kovvada site in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh.

The company was to build six AP-1000 atomic reactors with a capacity of 1,208 MW each at Kovvada.

With a total capacity of 7,248 MW, the government had a plan to make it one of the largest nuclear parks in south Asia.

The official said any foreign company need to demonstrate a functional nuclear plant using the same technology. This is a pre-requisite to obtain permission from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), the nuclear watchdog in the country.

Westinghouse’s AP-1000 technology plants are at various stages of construction in different countries and are yet to start commercial operations.