For more than a decade, no major meeting between an Indian Prime Minister and a U.S. President has passed without a ritual reference to India’s promise made in 2008 to purchase American nuclear reactors.
This was the case in the latest joint statement issued during U.S. President Donald Trump’s first official two-day visit to India (February 24-25), which stated that “Prime Minister Modi and President Trump encouraged the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited and Westinghouse Electric Company to finalize the techno-commercial offer for the construction of six nuclear reactors in India at the earliest date”.
Red flags in the U.S. deal
Because of serious concerns about cost and safety, the two organisations should have been told to abandon, not finalise, the proposal.
Indeed, it has been clear for years that electricity from American reactors would be more expensive than competing sources of energy. Moreover, nuclear reactors can undergo serious accidents, as shown by the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Westinghouse has insisted on a prior assurance that India would not hold it responsible for the consequences of a nuclear disaster, which is effectively an admission that it is unable to guarantee the safety of its reactors.
The main beneficiaries from India’s import of reactors would be Westinghouse and India’s atomic energy establishment that is struggling to retain its relevance given the rapid growth of renewables. But Mr. Trump has reasons to press for the sale too.
His re-election campaign for the U.S. presidential election in November, centrally involves the revival of U.S. manufacturing and he has been lobbied by several nuclear reactor vendors, including Westinghouse