The bilateral ties between India and Russia are experiencing a renewed thaw following the New Delhi visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin for the 19th Bilateral Summit. The two countries inked an action plan for construction of a second nuclear power plant in India to be built by Russia.
The plan also outlines the contours of cooperation between India and Russia in third countries, on the lines of the trilateral cooperation on Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant in Bangladesh.
"In particular, the plan envisages moving forward with the project of six nuclear power units of Russian design at a new site in India, more intensive cooperation in third countries, as well as enhanced cooperation in new promising areas of nuclear technology apart from the construction of nuclear power plants," a press release issued by the Russian state-owned corporation Rosatom said.
The document was signed by the head of the State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom Alexey Likhachev and by Secretary of Department of Atomic Energy and Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission India Kamlesh Vyas.
The action plan is a follow-up to the 'Strategic Vision for Strengthening Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy', which was released after Modi-Putin meeting in December 2014 at the 15th India-Russia summit. As per the document, Russia will be building 12 nuclear power units in the next 20 years.
News reports have already been saying that the Indian government will allot a new site at Kavali in Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh for Russia to build another atomic power project six Russian VVER-1200 reactors with each having a generation capacity of 1200 MWe.
The Nuclear Power Plant on the second site will have Generation 3 plus solutions and with increased level of Indian industry's involvement and localisation. Once the Indian government makes a formal offer to Russia, the Russian firm will conduct survey to ascertain the feasibility of the site.
The bilateral level has come in the backdrop of the US threatening India against making a defence deal with Russia. However, the number of agreements signed during the Summit indicates that India and Russia tightened their embrace.
Even though, the relation between the India and Russia have not been at its warmest in the past couple of years, the nuclear cooperation between the two countries created new landmarks - as New Delhi with the help from Moscow got involved in its first nuclear venture on foreign soil. India and Russia are keen to replicate their successful cooperation model in Bangladesh in other countries as well.
The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, the only successful venture with a foreign firm, will serve as benchmark for cooperation on the second plant. The Kudankulam plant as 6 units of VVER-1000 nuclear reactors. The localisation is planned to go up to 50 per cent for the fifth and sixth units of the plant in Kudankulam as well as for all the six units in Kavali.
Prime Minister Modi and President Putin during their last meeting had inked another agreement for the construction of the Units 5 and 6 of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plants. The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) is one of the largest nuclear power station in India. It is being constructed within the scope of the Russia-India Inter-Governmental Agreement.
KKNPP is being built by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and Russia's ASE Group of Companies, an engineering division of Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation. The Units 3,4,5,6 are likely to be commissioned in 2023, 2024, 2025 and 2026 respectively.
"We are satisfied with our strategic cooperation with India, where we implement the standardized construction of multiple units of Russian design on the Kudankulam site. We are counting on receiving a contract to implement a standardized construction of multiple units of our design at a new site in India in the same way," Alexey Likhachev said in a statement.
India has so far inked 13 civil nuclear agreements since the time Indo-US civil nuclear deal ended its isolation. However, but for Russia no foreign player has been able to set up a nuclear reactor for myriad reasons. With Russia's backing India has been able to make its foray into the nuclear energy market by helping Bangladesh set up its first nuclear reactor.
Russia has been India's arch patron in the defence sector for a long time, but the support has been visible in the nuclear energy sector as well. Even as the naysayers have been questioning the safety records of Russian nuclear reactors, Moscow has been able to take giant strides in nuclear industry globally and has set foothold in India.
"Russia's experience of setting up civilian nuclear reactors in recent years has become more diversified than other nuclear power giants from France, US, Japan etc.
The reach of its civilian nuclear cooperation agreements expands from Asia, Africa, Latin America, Middle East, Europe etc.," Hina Pandey, an associate with the Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS), told Nuclear Asia.
She attributes Russia's success to the country's nuclear energy strategy since 2007 that is aimed at "consciously promoting the overhaul of nuclear energy industry with special focus in nuclear engineering". The floating nuclear reactors are case in point.
Another thing that has contributed to successful India-Russia collaboration in the nuclear sector is that it does not have a 'no nuclear test' clause. India-Russia nuclear cooperation has been really old. Moscow has believed in New Delhi's non-proliferation credentials despite the latter being a non-signatory to the Nuclear non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).
"Russia can be said to be less picky in providing civilian nuclear cooperation agreements as compared to the US and France, this is not to suggest that Russia doesn't care for nuclear non-proliferation - but in comparison to other players- we have seen that Russia in recent years has been forthcoming in providing civilian nuclear cooperation with various countries such as Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Hungary, Argentina, Brazil, India- some previous agreements such as Iran, North Korea etc.," Pandey added.
Another reason is that the Russian government has a more decisive role to play in the outcome of the negotiations."Unlike the Westinghouse and GE cases, which are private companies, which are primarily answerable to their stockholders and have to give greater weight to the financial viability and profitability of the building reactors in India. The influence of the US government on American companies will be there, but to a much lower extent. To some extent that is true of the French supplier Areva as well,"
Russia has also been helping India in strengthening its credentials for a seat at Nuclear Suppliers Group by coming up with a model to help Indian nuclear companies export their expertise in the nuclear power field, as in the case of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (RNPP).