Tue, Dec 07, 2010 - Page 5 News List

France, India ink nuclear reactor deal

NUCLEAR REACTION:New Delhi has agreed to purchase two nuclear reactors for a new plant in Maharashtra State from the French state-run firm AREVA, for 7 billion euros

AFP, NEW DELHI

France firmed up a 7 billion euro (US$9.3 billion) deal to sell two nuclear reactors to India yesterday following talks between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

India signed a “framework agreement” with France’s state-run nuclear group AREVA for the purchase of two reactors for a new plant in Jaitapur in the western state of Maharashtra.

“Negotiations [with AREVA] have reached an advanced stage to pave the way for the launching of nuclear power reactors in Jaitapur in partnership with Indian industry,” Singh told a joint press conference.

The deal is short of a final sale agreement, but it means Arena has moved ahead of competitors from the US and Japan in the race to sell reactors to India, which is investing heavily in atomic energy.

Russia is already constructing two nuclear power units in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

The Maharashtra plant is set to ultimately have six reactors, but the first two are worth 7 billion euros, according to the French presidency.

Sarkozy is on a four-day trip to India, where he is seeking deeper trade ties while acknowledging his hosts’ increased role on the world stage.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama have both swept through India with similar messages recently, as Western nations look for export opportunities in a fast-growing country seen as a natural ally in Asia.

Sarkozy heads a delegation of six ministers and about 70 chief executives, including the bosses of aircraft and defense groups Dassault Aviation and EADS.

France recently took over the presidency of the G20 group of developed and major developing economic powers and Sarkozy sought support for his agenda, while also strongly backing a more influential role for India in world affairs.

He reiterated his support for India to have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council — a key foreign policy objective for New Delhi — and suggested it might simply transform its current temporary seat in 2012.

According to the French presidency, Singh has pledged his “support” for Sarkozy’s G20 program, which includes overhauling the global monetary system and combating commodity price volatility.

France is also seeking a slice of the billions of US dollars earmarked by India for a military upgrade, but competition is fierce among foreign arms manufacturers and no contracts were signed yesterday.

The president and his wife Carla Bruni, a singer and former model, went sightseeing at the ancient city of Fatehpur Sikri on Sunday after a romantic sunset visit to the Taj Mahal on Saturday.

The French leader last visited India in 2008, just before he married Bruni, and he vowed then to return with her to see the Taj Mahal, located in the city of Agra 200km from New Delhi.

India and France yesterday also signed agreements to cooperate more closely in space — the countries are to jointly launch satellites to monitor the climate and oceans next year — and arts and culture.

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