Monday, March 29, 2010

U.S./India Sign Commercial Nuclear Power Reprocessing Deal

The U.S. and India have finalized an agreement allowing India the right to reprocess nuclear fuel it imports from the U.S., completing a landmark nuclear-energy deal the countries signed in 2008. India has no domestic uranium reserves for its reactors and must import nuclear fuel. Reprocessing allows spent nuclear fuel to be broken down and recycled for energy production. But it is considered a nuclear proliferation risk because it can be used to reproduce plutonium for weapons.

India must still pass a law signing the country onto an international convention that limits the liability of private nuclear companies in the case of nuclear accidents. U.S. nuclear firms will not sell reactor technology to India until such a law is in place. Nuclear-liability legislation has proved controversial in New Delhi. The opposition believes the deal sacrifices India's sovereignty—because India agreed to international inspections of its nuclear facilities—and will block the liability legislation. Final approval of the U.S.-India nuclear deal will also require the Indian government to submit non-proliferation assurances to Washington about not transferring material to third parties, which are necessary for U.S. companies to export sensitive technologies.

India produces about 3% of its power from nuclear energy. As of 2008, India has 17 nuclear power plants in operation generating 4,120 MW while 6 other are under construction and are expected to generate an additional 3,160 MW. Most of its electricity comes from coal-fired plants. But New Delhi is stepping up investments in a range of cleaner technologies, including solar, wind and hydropower and nuclear energy. The country plans to add 60,000 megawatts of nuclear electricity capacity by 2030. (WSJ, 3/29/10)

No comments: