The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi and the Chief Minister of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalitha, video conferenced with the President of Russia Vladimir Putin to inaugurate Unit 1 of Kudankulam nuclear power plant on August 10, 2016.
India has an uphill task to accomplish its energy needs. In the long term strategy, nuclear forms a part of it is overall energy mix.
Tarapore atomic power station was the first nuclear power plant in India, established with the help of two boiling water reactors provided by the United States. The US also agreed to provide fuel for this reactor for the next 30 years. However, the deal was suspended when India used the nuclear fuel provided by Canada for its power plants to conduct nuclear weapon tests in 1974.
In 1998, the Vajpayee Government in India again conducted nuclear tests at Pokhran, understanding very well that India’s strategic objectives were more important than the sanctions that the world would impose on India. Every country refused to provide nuclear fuel to India. The only country willing to support India was Russia.
The sanctions were eventually lifted by the Bush Government in 2001. Consequently, India and the US initiated the civil nuclear agreement, also called the 123 agreement in 2005. The agreement was heavily debated in Parliament, as many politicians voiced opposition to being sold to the Americans with limited liability in case of a nuclear accident. The deal underwent many discussions and changes, and was finally ratified in 2016 by the Narendra Modi government in India.
Also, India is not signatory to the major nuclear treaties, such as Non Proliferation treaty, Missile Technology Control Regime, or the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty, discouraging other countries to sign civil nuclear deals with India.
While all other negotiations were ongoing, the Russian steadily made progress. In 2002, Russia started constructing the Kudankulam nuclear plant. The nuclear plant is the result of 1988 inter-government agreement between India and USSR. It has come out of the good relationship between the two nations.
India and the US signed on to the historic nuclear civilian deal, but it is Russia that actually built up the plant and has harnessed the huge nuclear energy potential of India. The lack of trust between India and the US has put America long behind in the race of the economic benefit it could have harnessed by establishing power plants in India.
Now, even, India and Australia have signed the nuclear civil agreement, and Australia will soon start providing uranium to the power plants of India. For the first time, Australia will provide nuclear fuel to a country that is not signatory to Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
But in the long term, the Americans are on their way to establish long term presence in India in the nuclear energy business. It would be companies like Honeywell and GE that stand to gain from their long standing expertise in the business. The Canadians are hoping they will be the future suppliers of nuclear fuel for India. India’s energy needs will continue to grow, as an average Indian consumes only 1/16th of energy than an American, and this is bound to change.