US firm Westinghouse Electric may bypass Toshiba for Gujarat plant

The Economic Times | Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury | Jan 29, 2015

NEW DELHI: United States-based nuclear plant maker Westinghouse Electric Corporation, which is keen to fast-track supply of reactors for the proposed plant in Gujarat after the breakthrough in Liability Act that held up operationalisation of the deal between the two countries, may explore sourcing of components bypassing its Japanese holding company Toshiba that cannot be party to deal in absence of India-Japan civil nuclear deal.

Westinghouse proposes to build six reactors for the 6,000 mw project at Chhaya Mithi Virdi in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state.

Besides concessions on the Liability Act, civil nuclear deal between India and Japan was perceived to be a prerequisite for US firms, particularly for Westinghouse and General Electric (GE), which have parent companies – Toshiba and Hitachi respectively – based in Japan. In the GE-Hitachi partnership, the Japanese firm conducts nuclear business globally. The absence of India-Japan civil nuclear deal posed a legal hurdle for US firms to sell India nuclear technologies and equipment with components originating in Japan.

Officials, however, indicated that Westinghouse has already initiated the project with the assistance of operator Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited and it could explore sourcing of equipment for the Gujarat plant from other countries.

“With regard to Westinghouse and GE, there are alternatives available and we do not think that the absence of an agreement with Japan is an obstacle to taking forward civil nuclear cooperation with the US,” said Amandeep Singh Gill, joint secretary in charge of disarmament and international security in the external affairs ministry. Gill spoke to media shortly after Modi announced a breakthrough in implementation of the civil nuclear deal.

Daniel Roderick, president and CEO of Toshiba-backed Westinghouse Electric Co, also said that a breakthrough has been achieved and logjam broken. Westinghouse is keen to launch its AP1000 reactor in the country and has partnered Larsen & Toubro for the purpose.

The parties concerned have not moved beyond a $10 million feasibility study and a pre-early works agreement between NPCIL and Westinghouse when then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited USA in 2013.

Washington-based officials indicated that with a breakthrough in the major hurdle, the US may convince its ally Japan to conclude the nuclear deal with India at the earliest to benefit all three sides. Officials exuded optimism that India-Japan nuclear deal will be in place by the time the Gujarat plant takes concrete shape.

India and Japan had started talks in June 2010, but the dialogue was suspended after the mishap at Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant on March 11, 2011. Talks resumed on September 3, 2013, but the two countries could not clinch the deal as Japan insisted on a clause that would provide for immediate termination of all bilateral cooperation in the event of a nuclear weapon test by India.

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