U.S. Will Build Nuclear Plants in India

The U.S. has agreed to build six nuclear power plants in India, according to a joint statement from the two countries issued March 13 in Washington, D.C.

The countries held two days of talks this week, discussing international security and nuclear cooperation. The talks involved Andrea Thompson, the U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, and Vijay Gokhale, India’s foreign secretary.

Big Plans for Nuclear Power

The statement gave few details about the nuclear projects. It said the countries “committed to strengthen bilateral security and civil nuclear cooperation, including the establishment of six U.S. nuclear power plants in India.”

Government data shows India has 22 nuclear reactors in operation at seven nuclear power plants, with total generation capacity of 6,780 MW. Nuclear power accounts for just more than 3% of the country’s power generation.

A pressurized heavy water reactor at the 220-MW Kaiga 1 plant in India set a world record by running for 962 consecutive days before it was taken offline for maintenance on Dec. 31 of last year.

India has said it wants to increase its nuclear generation capacity to as much as 22.5 GW over the next 15 years, part of the country’s effort to generate more electricity from renewables and non-fossil fuel resources. India in October 2018 signed a deal with Russia to build six new reactors in India.

U.S. Exporting Energy Technology, Resources

U.S. officials, including President Donald Trump and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, have said they want to export more U.S. energy resources and technology to foreign countries, including India, the world’s third-largest buyer of oil.

The U.S. and India have discussed cooperating on nuclear reactor technology for more than a decade, but liability rules of the Indian government have slowed those talks. Most international nuclear projects require the costs of any accident to be borne by the operator of the plant, rather than the maker of the reactor technology. India, though, places liability on the those behind the technology.

Westinghouse has negotiated with India on reactor construction for several years, but Westinghouse’s bankruptcy filing in 2017—due to cost overruns on the company’s U.S. projects—interrupted those plans.

Brookfield Asset Management, a Canadian company, bought Westinghouse from Toshiba in August 2018. Perry a year ago supported Westinghouse in its discussions with India, which revolved around the construction of six AP1000 reactors in Andhra Pradesh state. That agreement was announced in 2016, eight years after the U.S. and India signed a civil nuclear agreement.

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).