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Nuclear energy is a necessary resource for meeting climate, energy transition and energy security needs, the leaders of India and the USA said. They also noted "ongoing negotiations" for the construction of six AP1000 reactors in India, as well as discussions on small modular reactor development.

Modi and Biden pictured at the White House this week (Image: Indian PM's office)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joe Biden's comments were made in a wide-ranging joint statement issued during Modi's visit to Washington DC this week. In it, they underscored "the important role nuclear energy plays in global decarbonisation efforts and affirmed nuclear energy as a necessary resource to meet our nations’ climate, energy transition, and energy security needs".

The leaders noted "ongoing negotiations between the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and Westinghouse Electric Company (WEC) for the construction of six nuclear reactors in India" and "welcomed intensified consultations between the US DOE (Department of Energy) and India's DAE (Department of Atomic Energy) for facilitating opportunities for WEC to develop a techno-commercial offer for the Kovvada nuclear project".

They also noted "the ongoing discussion on developing next generation small modular reactor technologies in a collaborative mode for the domestic market as well as for export". Small modular reactors (SMRs) do not currently feature in India's formal nuclear energy plans, although the government's NITI Aayog policy think-tank has said the government should consider including them.

India and the USA signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement (also known as a 123 Agreement) in 2008, after India - which is not a signatory of the international Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) - reached a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Kovvada, in Andhra Pradesh, was earmarked for the construction of six AP1000 pressurised water reactors as long ago as 2016, but contractual arrangements have yet to be finalised.

In the statement, the USA also reaffirmed its support for India's membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and said it would "continue engagement with likeminded partners to advance this goal". The NSG is a group of nuclear supplier countries, that contributes to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons by controlling the export of materials, equipment and technology that could potentially be used in their manufacture. India formally applied to join the NSG in 2016, but to date the group - whose current members, unlike India, are all signatories of the NPT - has not reached a consensus on India's proposed membership.

India's 22 operable nuclear power plants currently generate about 3% of the country's electricity needs and the country has confirmed plans for 21 new reactors (including 8 under construction and one - Kakrapar 3 - which has been grid-connected but is not yet in commercial operation). Most of the country's operating, and planned, reactors are indigenously designed pressurised heavy water reactors, but two Russian-designed VVER pressurised water reactors are in operation at Kudankulam, with four more under construction. French company EDF submitted a techno-commercial offer to build six EPRs at Jaitapur in Maharashtra to NPCIL in 2021.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Saturday, 24 June 2023
Original article: world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Biden,-Modi-affirm-commitment-to-nuclear-as-Kovvad