New Delhi wary of nuclear cooperation with Seoul

New Delhi wary of nuclear  cooperation with Seoul

A cagey New Delhi is unlikely to accede to Seoul’s request for a site to build atomic power plants during the forthcoming visit of the South Korean President Park Geun-hye to India.

This is ostensibly because the East Asian country’s nuclear industry was recently hit by a scam, raising doubts about safety standards of its reactors.

Park is set to arrive in New Delhi on Wednesday. This is going to be her maiden visit to India after taking over as the president of South Korea in February 2013. 

New Delhi hopes that the South Korean president’s visit would “expand and strengthen” the bilateral strategic partnership.

But no significant headway in the proposed civil nuclear cooperation is expected during the visit, as New Delhi is wary about allocating a site for South Korean reactors in India, particularly in the wake of the revelation last year that safety certificates for a large number of components procured by the state-owned Korean Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) for its reactors over the previous nine years had been forged.

The KEPCO has since long been keen to export its APR-1400 reactors to India. 

The KEPCO and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) have been engaged in a joint study of “licensibility and constructability” of APR-1400s in India since 2009.

India signed a bilateral civil nuclear agreement with South Korea in July 2011. When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited South Korea in March 2012, Park’s predecessor Lee Myung-bak had requested him to allocate a site in India for the KEPCO to build its nuclear reactors.

New Delhi earlier allocated the sites at Jaitapur in Maharashtra and at Mithi Virdi in Gujarat for French and American nuclear companies to build atomic power plants.

Sources said that New Delhi had decided against rushing into nuclear cooperation primarily because it wanted Seoul to address the safety concerns about the KEPCO reactors first.

South Korea’s nuclear industry came under a shadow after it was revealed in May last year that eight companies had submitted about 60 fake quality assurance certificates to supply 7,000 components like cables, fuses, switches and heat-sensors to two nuclear plants between 2003 and 2012. At least three reactors were shut down to replace cables supplied using fake certificates. 

The KEPCO chief Kim Joong-kyum had to resign in the wake of the scam. The probe into the scam was subsequently widened and 100 people, including top executives of its energy companies, were indicted for corruption.

Sources in New Delhi said that the government was not keen to start negotiations on commercial agreements between NPCIL and KEPCO for construction of APR-1400 reactors in India.

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