US hopeful of commercial deal for N-plant in India by 2017

WASHINGTON: With the US and India making “progress” over the commercial and financing aspects of their civil nuclear agreement, the Obama administration is hopeful that a deal for a nuclear power plant in India under the landmark pact could be announced by the end of this year.

“What remains (of the civil nuclear agreement) is the actual commercial deal to be negotiated and the financing to be negotiated. That I think is moving forward,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal said.

“It has been our hope that the two governments, the two leaders when they last met said that they are hopeful that they would be at a point where a commercial deal and financing be announced by the summer of 2017. I am hopeful that that would continue to be the case and we would continue to work through those issues,” Biswal told PTI.

The first and foremost is for the commercial partners for Westinghouse to be able to achieve the package that is satisfactory to both of them and to the Indian government, she said.

And when that package is put together for the financing terms to be negotiated, Biswal added.

“We are making progress on both of those fronts and hopefully would be able to get to that finish line later this year, as was projected by the two leaders,” Biswal said.

The civil-nuclear agreements negotiated during the Bush Administration was a watershed moment because it set the two countries on a path that India and US are so far along today, Biswal said.

But that agreement left a number of important issues unresolved, including the issues of nuclear liability, she noted.

“So with India’s ratification of the convention of supplementary compensation the liability issue by and large has been addressed. We have defined ways in which the agreement can also be in compliance with our legal statutory agreements with respect to tracking of fissile material. So I think that issue has been kind of cleared up. And that path has been unblocked,” Biswal said.

Culminating a decade of partnership on civil nuclear issues, Modi and Obama during their White House meeting last year had “welcomed” the start of preparatory work on site in India for six AP1000 reactors to be built by Westinghouse.

They had also welcomed the announcement by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) and Westinghouse that engineering and site design work will begin immediately and the two sides will work toward finalizing the contractual arrangements by June 2017.

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