There is no assurance in India as to whether the nuclear deal “work around” Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached with US President Barack Obama this week will pass legal muster, since India’s parliament, based on international norms, passed a very stringent law demanding accountability under a previous government.
An agreement was signed on civil nuclear cooperation between the two nations in 2008, and India had to put in place a nuclear liability regime to pass international norms, which makes the supplier, in this case US firms providing the prospective nuclear plants’ technology, financially responsible for any mishaps. Now, both leaders have agreed to “bypassing” this major stumbling block by bringing in Indian insurance companies.
Daniel Roderick, President and CEO of Westinghouse Electric Co. later told news agency Reuters that the civil nuclear pact struck at the summit talks could help clear a logjam of stalled projects. Although he added he was looking for more details on a nuclear liability insurance pool that India had proposed.
Westinghouse plans to launch its AP1000 reactor in India, and has partnered with Indian company, Larsen & Toubro, to do just that but, except for a $10 million feasibility study, there’s been no further progress.
Setting that aside, the summit was also notable for the specifics in renewable energy that it did not promise. Support such as Westinghouse’s commitment to nuclear coming to India’s burgeoning solar power industry, for example, would have come as music to Modi’s ears. More help was offered by President Obama to finance India’s ambitious solar energy targets ($2 billion in leveraged financing for renewable energy investments), but that came with the US in turn asking the Indian Prime Minister to support global climate talks in Paris later this year.
The Modi government’s stated priority has been to expand India’s renewable energy capacity and lessen the dependence on fossil fuels that are polluting the environment.
The Indian Government is already committed to building 600 solar farms with 20 megawatts of capacity in the next eight years. Among a handful of companies, SunEdison Inc. has announced plans to invest $4 billion to build the biggest solar panel factory in India.
The author, Sohrab Darabshaw, contributes an Indian perspective on industrial metals markets to MetalMiner.