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

November 2010 update

Although Parliament has passed the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages Bill, the position of the Russian government and its companies vis-a-vis the Koodankulam nuclear power project has not been clarified.

There are some reports which say that the Indian government and the Russian government signed an inter-governmental agreement in December 2008 secretively and Article 13 of which states: "The Indian side and its authorised organisation at any time and at all stages of the construction and operation of the NPP units to be constructed under the present agreement shall be the operator of power units of the NPP at the Kudankulam site and be fully responsible for any damage both within and outside the territory of the Republic of India caused to any person and property as a result of a nuclear incident occurring at the NPP."

These reports also say that there were differences of opinion between the NPCIL authorities and the Russian officials over the exact site selection for the Koodankulam reactors 1 and 2. The Russians refused to accept the NPCIL's shifting the originally selected sites and refused to work with them.

India's new nuclear liability law has raised questions from Russia also. Russia's ambassador to India Alexander M. Kadakin has said that Moscow wants to know about implementation of the contentious clause 17(b). "We expect from the Indian side official clarification as regards the implementation mechanism of the respective paragraph of the nuclear liability bill. As per our knowledge, at present such position is being prepared," Kadakin said.

While the liability law does not cover the nuclear plants Russia is building in Kudankulam, it will impact the proposed Russian reactors at Haripur and another site not yet allotted. Russia's Rosatom hopes to build up to 16 nuclear reactors in India.

Haripur Site

The Centre is said to be amenable to changing the nuclear park site allocated to Russia in West Bengal. In fact the government indicated its flexibility when the Russian unease first surfaced towards the beginning of this year following statements by some Trinamool Congress leaders.

However, the sources feel there is still time to convince farmers and fishermen. India and Russia will turn their sights towards the Haripur nuclear park only after achieving some sort of closure on four additional units planned at the first site allocated to Russia at Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu. Two units of 1,000 MW each are already coming up at the same site.

Early this year, high ranking Russian diplomats asked India to take into account the local political situation at the Haripur after the Trinamool raised the issue in West Bengal and Parliament. The Russian National Security Advisor Nikolai Petroshev also mentioned this when he met his Indian counterpart Shivshankar Menon in February this year.

Diplomats did not think the issue was insurmountable since land acquisition issues were expected at coastal sites for nuclear power plants. Though the Russians are said to be insisting that even if the fishing hamlet is not taken off India's nuclear map for the time being, Moscow be allotted another site in case the proposed nuclear plant fails to take off in the end.

Responding to concerns raised by the Russians, government officials said DAE was in touch with the protesters and it had still not given up hope. Rosatom has asked DAE to seriously consider allotting it another site for the plant.

"The Russians are concerned about the situation but we have told them that we are still upbeat about it," said a senior government official. Apart from Kudankulam and Haripur, Russia has been promised one more site but if Haripur doesn't materialise, yet another site will have to be allotted in its place. Sources said Russia wanted a fallback option in place.

The coastal region of Haripur had been allotted by the Centre to Russia last year because of its low density of population. The proposed plant at Haripur had acquired all necessary environmental clearances in January. Haripur was said to have potential for six reactor units. It had been earmarked initially for two 1,000MW power plants and the construction work was to commence this year.

After the protests led by Mamata Banerjee’s party started to gain momentum, the state's ruling party, CPM, too tried to wash its hands off the project by saying that it was the Centre's brainchild. A  TMC minister at the Centre, Sisir Adhykary, in January warned that the people of the area won't allow the plant to come up.