The Bear and the Tiger: Russia Wants to Build 12 Nuclear Reactors for India

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The initial euphoria over Russia agreeing to build at least 12 nuclear reactors in India by 2035 has died down as sector experts get around to analyzing the Russian move vis-à-vis India’s ongoing nuclear power program.

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The agreement, one of 20, was inked during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s summit meeting in New Delhi last week.  Both Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Putin pledged to take ties between the 2 nations to a “new degree of closeness,” with cooperation in nuclear energy acting as the lynchpin. A report by Indian news agency Press Trust of India said both nations would strive to complete the construction and commissioning of not less than 12 nuclear units in the next 2 decades, according to a strategic vision document.

That makes it great propaganda material for official press releases and for the official summit photographs, but going behind the scenes, as many Indian analysts and media following the nuclear program and India’s power sector have done, it emerges that the agreement is merely old wine in a new bottle.

To begin with, a Russian-built, 1,000-megawatt reactor has already been operating since 2013 at Kudankulam in the southern province of Tamil Nadu. A second is due to come online in 2015. All of which goes to underline the fact that Russia and India have a history of cooperation in the nuclear field. Even the “new” agreement for 12 more reactors is actually part of a 2008 pact between the 2 nations, if some reports are to be believed.

Manpreet Sethi, Indian Council for Social Science Research Senior Fellow with the Centre for Air Power Studies, writing in the EuraAsia Review  said the main statement and a parallel document outlining the ‘strategic vision’ for cooperation in the civil nuclear energy front reiterate earlier plans calling for a total of 12 Russian reactors to be built at Kudankulam and another (yet to be identified) site in India. What was new, however, was the commitment to “progressively and significantly enhance the scope of orders for materials and equipment from Indian suppliers and establish joint ventures, including by transfer of technology.”

The author, Sohrab Darabshaw, contributes an Indian perspective on industrial metals markets to MetalMiner.

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