Over U.S. objections that Moscow would violate its commitments under the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Russia and India concluded a deal committing Russia to construct two 1,000-megawatt, light-water, pressurized reactors at Kudankulam in southern India, according to a Russian source.
The deal was signed November 6, during Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s state visit to Moscow. India and the Soviet Union initially agreed to the deal, reportedly worth $2.6 billion, in 1988, although New Dehli had previously been unable to finance the project.
The Pioneer, an Indian newspaper, reported that the first of the two reactor units are expected to be completed by December 2007, and “site-related activities” have already commenced, according to Rajagopalan Chidambaram, chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission.
The United States has long opposed the project, citing Russian obligations as a member of the NSG, a group of 39 countries that have agreed to restrict their exports of nuclear equipment and technology that could be used for weapons purposes. In 1992, NSG members agreed not to sell nuclear technology to non-nuclear-weapon states, such as India, that do not accept International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards at all of their nuclear facilities.
Russia has disputed Washington’s assertion, citing a clause in the 1992 agreement that exempts the arrangement from applying to “existing agreement and contracts.” But a State Department official said that no specific contracts or financial arrangements were concluded in 1988 and that the deal cannot therefore be exempted under this clause.
The official added that Washington’s concerns stem not from a belief that the reactor project would allow India to divert nuclear technology or materials to its weapons program but rather that the United States sees the deal as inconsistent with Russia’s commitments as an NSG member.