29th May 2022

EU extends nuclear co-operation with India

  • Nicolas Sarkozy hopes to strike a bilateral deal with India while extending EU civil nuclear co-operation with the Asian country (Photo: European Community, 2008)

The European Union has extended its civil nuclear co-operation with India in a move championed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is expected to sign a bilateral deal with the Indian prime minister on Tuesday (30 September).

The move, which comes despite India not being a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, echoes a similar agreement signed between the Asian country and the United States.

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The development was announced following a EU-India summit in Marseille on Monday (29 September).

Additionally, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso hailed a "joint action plan on climate change" sealed with India, adding that civil nuclear co-operation would be extended with the Asian country on nuclear fusion.

Mr Barroso said that India is to be part of the ITER group of nations, an international project aimed at developing a viable fusion power reactor in France, at a site near Marseille where the summit took place.

Mr Barroso also stresed that the EU would like to see "reinforced co-operation between EURATOM and India on nuclear safety and research. I think the time has come to sit down and reflect and pick up on existing civil nuclear co-operation work – specifically on scientific co-operation."

For his part, following the summit, President Sarkozy said that France supports the development of India's civil nuclear technology sector as part of its efforts to fight the effects of climate change.

"I can't see how we can tell India to participate in fighting climate change without civil nuclear energy when we know it is the cleanest form of energy – it makes no sense," Mr Sarkozy said.

He added that on Tuesday he will host Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at a bilateral summit, "and in all likelihood we shall discuss this matter and take decisions."

Mr Singh also expressed confidence that he would sign a bilateral agreement with Mr Sarkozy on Tuesday, with the Indian domestic civil nuclear market representing an estimated €20 billion for French investors.

According to Amit Mitra, general secretary of the Indian Chamber of Commerce, "India needs 60,000 megawatts of extra capacity for nuclear energy. This requires an investment of €97 billion over the next 15 years."

"I expect France to carry 25 per cent of these investments," he added.

In August, the Indian atomic energy agency pre-selected the US-based Westinghouse Electric Company, the US-Japanese operation General Electric-Hitachi, France's Areva and the Russia's Rosatom for possible commercial contracts, once the political agreements are signed.

Competition with US and Russia

"India seeks co-operation with all countries of the world in matters relating to the promotion of civil nuclear technology in our country," Prime Minister Singh told journalists after the EU-India summit in Marseille, highlighting a bilateral political agreement permitting the sale of civilian nuclear material already sealed with the Bush administration, which is currently being considered by the country's Congress.

The deal requires congressional approval because US law prohibits nuclear sales to countries who have not signed the nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The deal was signed after the Nuclear Suppliers Group - international overseers of nuclear commerce - agreed to it even though India is not a signatory to any of the key global non-proliferation pacts.

Energy-hungry India, which has 17 nuclear power plants, was blacklisted for 35 years by the global atomic commerce community as punishment for its nuclear-weapons tests.

Russia is also seen as a competitor for the EU on the Indian civil nuclear market.

"Russia has always supported our desire to develop nuclear technology. Following the lifting of the sanctions, we count on broadening our co-operation with this country, especially in the field of building nuclear plants and scientific exchange," Anil Kakodkar, the head of the Indian Atomic Agency told RIA Novosti on Monday.

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