Washington: India could soon join a select group of countries like US, China and France which export nuclear reactors, a Congressional report has said.
“Only Canada, China, France, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States export nuclear reactors. India may join this group in the near term,” the Congressional Research Service (CRS) said in its latest report ‘Nuclear Energy Cooperation with Foreign Countries Issue for Congress.’
CRS is the independent and bipartisan research wing of the US Congress, which prepares periodic report on issues of interest to the lawmakers. According to World Nuclear Association, India is offering its indigenous 220 and 540 megawatt heavy water reactor designs for export, although no specific customers have been identified.
The CRS report said only a limited number of countries conduct commercial enrichment and reprocessing of fissile materials and can supply this technology.
At present, supplier states are not planning any transfers of enrichment or reprocessing technology. The Nuclear Suppliers Group recently added criteria to its guidelines for the supply of fuel cycle technologies.
“Commercial reprocessing is now being done in France, the United Kingdom, Russia, Japan, and India.” China has a pilot plant and is “considering a large-scale facility… South Korea is pursuing a research and development program on pyro-processing,” the report said.
“Some countries with few natural energy resources, such as Japan, argue that they want to reprocess their spent fuel to reduce dependence on foreign energy sources. Reprocessing proponents in those countries prefer a closed fuel cycle, in which spent nuclear fuel from reactors is used to make fuel for other reactors; opponents raise questions about proliferation risks and high economic costs,” it said.
US nuclear cooperation agreements with foreign countries are also designed is to help promote growth in the American nuclear industry by facilitating US nuclear exports.
US exports of nuclear plant components, equipment, fuel, and technology have held steady at modest levels since the mid-1990s and comprise a decreasing share of the global market, it said. Such exports require nuclear cooperation agreements.
“That downward trend could be altered by new, higher-efficiency uranium enrichment plants currently planned in the United States and by new US contracts to supply reactor technology and components in China and elsewhere,” it said. “Recent plans for nuclear power expansion around the world, particularly in China and India, could lead to future growth in US nuclear reactor exports. A consortium led by Westinghouse signed a contract with Chinese nuclear firms on July 24, 2007, to supply four AP1000 reactors— Westinghouse’s newest design—at a cost estimated at $8 billion,” the report said, adding that India has announced plans for up to 12 US nuclear reactors at two sites, although no contract has been signed.
The CRS said France and Russia are discussing with India means of resolving their concerns about that country’s liability law, which was adopted in August 2010 and, according to many observers, is inconsistent with the CSC.
However, according to a Nuclear Energy Agency analysis, Russian and French companies could, in the event of a nuclear accident, still be less exposed to lawsuits than US companies because Moscow and Paris would be in a “more powerful position to negotiate a settlement with the Indian government than a private supplier may be.”
Additionally, suppliers are more likely to be subject to class action lawsuits in the United States than would suppliers in Russia or France, the CRS argued.