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Russia – India nuclear energy cooperation
Presently, Russia is India’s top most partner in nuclear cooperation,

November 2009 update

India's ties with the Russian Federation are time-tested and based on continuity, trust and mutual understanding. There is national consensus in both the countries on the need to preserve and strengthen the fundamentals of India-Russia relations and further consolidate the strategic partnership (Declaration of Strategic Partnership between the two countries was signed between former President Vladimir Putin and former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee in October 2000). 

Though recently there have been some hiccups to this relationship. These relate to the changes in the price of purchase of the naval ship Admiral Gorshkov by India; reliability of Russian spare supplies for Indian defense; and the comparatively low levels of bilateral trade. Both countries are now making attempts to smoothen these issues, and cooperation in the nuclear energy sector is one main article of this long-term relationship.

PM Manmohan Singh’s visit to Russia in December 2009 is expected to bring a considerable further momentum to cooperation between the two countries. There is perception in both sides now that the two countries need to urgently grow their strategic relations which have been somewhat on low priority for both nations for past few years.
The UPA government in its second term seems to be working on re-energising the strategic partnership with Russia. The sheen had gone off the bilateral relationship in the first term of the UPA, with the government focusing just on the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal. But now that appears to be changing as the same civilian nuclear agreement seems to have given Indo-Russian ties a new lease of life. For now, Russia and India are negotiating four reactors — two in Kudankulum and two in West Bengal — with more reactors in the pipeline, according to sources.

Meanwhile, two military pacts, including a 10-year deal on weapons, aircraft and maintenance contracts estimated to be around $5 billion, are expected to be signed during the prime minister's visit in December 2009.

Two months after India was granted nuclear exemptions by the NSG, in December 2008 President Medvedev visited India. The two countries have the mechanism of holding Annual Summits since the year 2000. PM Manmohan Singh was on an official visit to Russia on 11-12 November 2007 for the Annual Summit. President Medvedev’s reciprocal visit to India also marked the conclusion of “Year of Russia in India” during which over 150 events were held in India.

The following statement by President Medvedev in New Delhi on December 5, 2008, indicates the top priority Russia accords to energy and nuclear cooperation in its relations with India.

“President Medvedev: What are our main areas of cooperation? One of our clear priorities is cooperation in the energy sector. The Prime Minister spoke about this just now. One of the important practical results of our meeting today was the signing of an agreement for cooperation on building two new units at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, and the construction of new Russian-designed nuclear power plants in India.

Furthermore, Russian companies plan to work together with Indian partners to carry out exploration and production of minerals.

Question: Could you please comment on cooperation in the nuclear energy sector?

President Medvedev: I just said that cooperation in the energy sector is one of our clear priorities, and in this context we consider cooperation in the nuclear energy sector to be of great interest and exclusively productive. We are involved in building units at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, and we are working in full cooperation with our Indian friends. The results we have already achieved are positive and form the basis for signing the special agreement on cooperation in building new units at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant and possibly building new nuclear power plants in India.

I think that at this time when all different sorts of energy sources are being developed alongside the traditional fossil fuels it would be hard to overestimate the cooperation between our countries, because this is cooperation for the future. It creates new growth opportunities for the Indian economy. Any growing economy – and the Indian economy is growing very fast – often encounters energy shortages, and it is precisely to help deal with this problem that we hope to expand our cooperation in the nuclear energy sector.

We are very optimistic and think that through our work together, through our cooperation, we can establish a base for the Indian economy’s overall development and for supplying it with electricity using the production possibilities nuclear power plants offer. I think that this is one of the first steps in this direction, and I hope that our cooperation in this area will continue and grow stronger.

I say again, I think it is mutually beneficial and exclusively positive cooperation.”

Following is List of Agreements concluded at the signing ceremony following talks between the Prime Minister of India and the President of the Russian Federation: 

  • Joint Declaration between the Republic of India and the Russian Federation
  • Protocol on the Fourteenth session of the Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation
  • Agreement between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the Russian Federation on cooperation in the construction of additional nuclear power plant units at Kudankulam site as well as in the construction of Russian designed nuclear power plants at new sites in the Republic of India.
  • Memorandum of Understanding between Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and Russian Federal Space Agency on joint activities in the field of human spaceflight programme 
  • Joint Action Programme for the period 2009-10 for the implementation of the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the Russian Federation on cooperation in the field of Tourism

The following Joint Declaration was issued: 

“The Republic of India and the Russian Federation, hereinafter referred to as the “Sides”, 
 Reaffirming their time-tested friendship, long-standing relations and enduring bilateral ties, which have become stronger over time;  Guided by the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between the Republic of India and the Russian Federation of 28 January 1993 and the Declaration on Strategic Partnership between the Republic of India and the Russian Federation of 3 October 2000;  Reiterating their adherence to the ideals and principles enshrined in the UN Charter;  Determined to contribute jointly to strengthening global peace, security and stability and to building a just and democratic world order;  

Both Sides underline the importance of nuclear energy as a clean and safe source of energy to meet growing energy requirements and welcome the recent decision taken by the Nuclear Suppliers Group on civil nuclear cooperation with India. They note with satisfaction the ongoing cooperation in the implementation of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project. The two Sides agree to collaborate in setting-up of additional units of the project on the basis of the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the Russian Federation on cooperation in the construction of additional nuclear power plant units at Kudankulam and new sites in India signed on 5 December 2008 and to expand and pursue further areas for bilateral cooperation in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
Referring to the respective strengths of India and the Russian Federation in various spheres of peaceful uses of outer space, both Sides note ongoing cooperation in the Russian Global Navigation Satellite System GLONASS, joint lunar exploration, joint development and launch of a Youth satellite for educational purposes and other projects. They agree to direct their respective agencies to intensify ongoing cooperation and identify new areas for further collaboration between them.”

The two sides also signed an accordance that envisages Russia sending Indian astronauts into space in 2013 and then launch a manned Indian spacecraft in 2015; and a contract for Russia to supply 80 MI-17V-5 helicopters for the Indian Army. The two countries concluded to hasten projects for joint development and production of Multi-Role Transport Aircraft and Fifth-Generation Fighter Aircraft and increase mutual trade volume to $10 billion by 2010.

The Indo-Russian inter-governmental agreement on nuclear cooperation was signed by Anil Kakodkar, Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy of India and Sergei Kirienko, Director General, Russian State Corporation, Rosatom.

Russia is understood to have agreed to let India reprocess fuel that it may supply. Thus, along with France, Russia is the second country which has not imposed extraneous conditions on India for reprocessing.

The agreement commits Atomstroi, a fully state-owned undertaking, to manufacture four reactors of 1,000 Mw each (in addition to the two that were already being built) in Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu. The Indo-Russian agreement also talked of a “future site” (now determined to be Haripur in West Bengal) for additional reactors. The value of the new deal has not been given. Russia had late last year offered a sweetener in the form of a 30% discount on the USD 2 billion price tag for each of its new nuclear reactors under discussions for sale to India.

Energy sector is an important area in Indo-Russian bilateral relations. ONGC-Videsh Limited has acquired 20% stake in the Sakhalin-I oil and gas project in the Russian Federation and has invested about US $ 2.8 billion in the project, which is one of the largest investments by India abroad. The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project with two units of combined capacity of 2000 MW is a good example of Indo-Russian nuclear cooperation. Both sides have expressed interest in expanding cooperation in the energy sector. 

On February 11, 2009 Russian nuclear fuel monopoly TVEL and the Department of Atomic Energy signed long-term contracts for supply of fuel pellet to NPCIL's existing reactors and the upcoming Koodankulam units. Under the deal, valued at over $700 million, the first consignment comprising 30 tonnes of pellets have been delivered to the Nuclear Fuel Complex in Hyderabad for conversion into fuel rods. The Russians deputed TVEL to deliver uranium not just to the Russian-built stations, but to the existing heavy-water units in the country as well, including the Tarapur station. India, on the other hand, had promised the Russians an increased role in the sector.

Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Sergei Sobyanin arrived in India on November 10 2009 to prepare for PM Manmohan Singh’s visit to Moscow in December 2009. He has said that documents for the construction of the next two Kudanukulam reactors will be signed by the end of the year. Speaking during a visit to the Kudankulam site, where two Russian VVER pressurised water reactors are nearing completion, Sobyanin said that first concrete for the third Kudankulam unit could be poured by the end of 2010. A total of six VVERs are ultimately planned for Kudankulam, in Tamil Nadu province.

Sobyanin visited and reviewed the Kudankulam nuclear power project during his November visit to India. The two 1,000 MW Russian reactors are in the advanced stages of construction with the first unit expected to go on stream sometime early next year and the second around eight months later. Russia will also supply fuel for the reactors for its entire life. Sobyanin was accompanied on his visit by Mr S.V. Kirienko, director general of state corporation, Rosatom, Mr Dan Belenkiy, president of Atomstroiexport, Russia’s nuclear power equipment and service export monopoly that has been building two reactors for the Koodankulam plant, and Mr Generalov, director general of Atom energy project.

In August, dummy fuel - similar to the real one in terms of weight and other features but without uranium - for the first reactor was received. Earlier, the project received the first consignment of uranium from Russia for the second 1,000 MW unit at Kudankulam. The fuel consignment for the first unit had came in early 2008. According to officials, another fuel consignment and some more components for the project are expected from Russia this month, November 2009.

Further, Russia is likely to get land in West Bengal for a second nuclear power project in the country. The Haripur site in West Bengal has been earmarked for Russian participation and could house up to eight Russian `VVER'-series reactor units, official sources said.

A second site in India would give a head-start for the Russians in the Indian nuclear market. Russian State-owned firm Atomstroyexport would be involved in the construction of new units as well, sources said. India has earlier conveyed its readiness to expand its nuclear engagement with Russia beyond the Koodankulam site. Earlier in September 2009, both sides commenced preliminary discussions on the construction of Russian design reactors on a new site during delegation level talks between the Atomic Energy Commission Chairman, Dr Anil Kakodkar, and the Rosatom chief, Mr Sergei Kiriyenko.

In September, both sides had also reaffirmed their resolve to finalise contracts for the second phase of the Koodankulam project and commence construction of the proposed third and fourth units at the site.

On the issue of reactor type for future projects, the possibility of continuing with the third generation `VVER-1000' reactor being used for the two Koodankulam units currently under construction, or going in for the new generation `VVER 1200' units, is being debated by the DAE. As earlier mentioned, the Russian Government- owned utility Atomstroyexport, which is currently involved in building the first and second units of the Koodankulam project, will be involved in the new site as well.

In other strategic relations, the two countries have an ongoing cooperation in the field of science & technology, under the Integrated Long-Term Programme of cooperation (ILTP). ILTP is the largest cooperation programme in this sphere for both India and Russia. Development of SARAS Duet aircraft, semiconductor products, super computers, poly-vaccines, Laser Science and Technology, Seismology, high-purity materials, software & IT and Ayurveda have been identified as priority areas of co-operation.

ILTP is coordinated by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) from the Indian side and by the Russian Academy of Sciences and Russian Ministry of Industry & Science and Technology from the Russian side. Under this programme, eight joint Indo- Russian centers have been established to focus on interactive research and development work.

Two more Joint Specialized Research Centres on Non-ferrous Metals and Accelerators & Lasers are being set up in India. A Joint Technology Centre based in Moscow to bring cutting edge technologies to the market is being set up. A MoU was signed in August 2007 between DST and Russian Foundation of Basic Research, Moscow on scientific cooperation. Initially, 25 projects would be taken with this organization. 

Space is another key sector of cooperation between the two countries. During former President Putin’s visit to India in December 2004, two space-related bilateral agreements were signed viz. Inter-Governmental umbrella Agreement on cooperation in the outer space for peaceful purposes and the Inter Space Agency Agreement on cooperation in the Russian satellite navigation system “GLONASS”. Subsequently a number of follow-up agreements on GLONASS have been signed. Implementation of earlier space cooperation programmes continues. An Agreement on Joint Moon Exploration was signed in November 2007. A MoU on Human Spaceflight Programme was signed on 5 December 2008 during the visit of President Medvedev to India.