Russia’s ability to restart long-delayed work at India’s Kudankulam nuclear plant has paved the way for a deal with Delhi to build two more atomic reactors in the near future, Russia's nuclear chief said on Wednesday.
The first two reactors at the plant in the state of Tamil Nadu were meant to be operational last year, but work by Russian engineers was delayed after protesters blocked access to the site following Japan’s nuclear catastrophe.
Work to launch the reactors restarted on Tuesday, however, after Indian police arrested dozens of protesters.
“The resolution of the political dispute over the first two reactors paves the road to sign the agreement on the third and fourth (nuclear) generators,” Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Russian state nuclear monopoly Rosatom, told Reuters.
“The decision (on the third and fourth) reactors was linked to the launch of the first and second generators.”
Kiriyenko said Moscow was ready to sign the agreement with India on the third and fourth reactors “starting tomorrow,” adding he already had initial political approval for the project despite the fact that talks have dragged on for years.
However, he ruled out sealing the deal during President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to India for a summit of the BRICS group of nations.
Russia is keen to cash in on its nuclear know-how and has ambitious plans to triple nuclear exports to $50 billion a year by 2030. It possesses about 40 percent of the world's uranium enrichment capacity, and exports some $3 billion worth of fuel a year, offering discounts to clients who buy its reactors.
India meanwhile continues to suffer from huge electricity shortages which are hampering its growth, and is therefore anxious to get more nuclear power stations built as quickly as possible.
World’s safest nuclear plant
Kiriyenko hailed the Indian authorities’ decision to press ahead despite domestic opposition to the project, saying the plant more than complied with stricter safety rules brought in after the Fukushima crisis.
“There is nothing safer that this project compared to other plants across the globe,” Kiriyenko told Reuters.
Rosatom has argued that the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl more than 20 years ago helped it hone its safety technology.
Kiriyenko did not say when the first two reactors at Kudankulam could go online, stressing that the halt in construction meant additional checks would be necessary.
“We need to carry out an inspection of the equipment that has been idle,” Kiriyenko said. “This of course may take some time because we have put all the equipment in storage.”
India plans to add 64 gigawatts of nuclear power to its power generating capacity by building 30 reactors by 2032.