Canada firms to capitalize on nuclear trade with India

Tue Nov 6, 2012 2:44pm EST
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By Randall Palmer

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Canadian firms will be able to export uranium and nuclear reactors to India for the first time in almost four decades under an agreement between the two nations, their prime ministers said, but more work is needed to implement the deal.

Once implemented, the agreement will end a ban on nuclear cooperation Canada imposed in 1976 after India secretly exploded its first nuclear bomb in 1974, commonly called the "Smiling Buddha", using material from a Canadian-built reactor in India.

"Being able to resolve these issues and move forward is, we believe, a really important economic opportunity for an important Canadian industry, part of the energy industry, that should pay dividends in terms of jobs and growth for Canadians down the road," Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Tuesday on a visit to New Delhi.

A negotiator with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), speaking on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the talks, said that what remained was a careful legal review of the language; translation into French and Hindi; and then a signing.

This is not expected to take very long, he said. The two sides have set up a joint committee to liaise on nuclear issues, but he said it would not be negotiating.

India aims to lift its nuclear capacity to 63,000 MW in the next 20 years by adding nearly 30 reactors. The country currently operates 20 mostly small reactors at six sites with a capacity of 4,780 MW, or 2 percent of its total power capacity, according to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited.

Canada's ambassador to India, Stewart Beck, said on Monday his country wanted to be able to track all nuclear material, but that India felt it only needed to report to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

It was not clear who made concessions in the talks and how effective the safeguards would be to ensure that Canadian material did not get used again for making nuclear weapons.   Continued...

India's President Pranab Mukherjee (R) speaks with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper during their meeting at India's presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi November 6, 2012. Harper is on a six-day state visit to India. REUTERS/India's Presidential Palace/Handout