France to prod Modi to fast-track Jaitapur nuclear plant

France to prod Modi to fast-track Jaitapur nuclear plant

Paris is set to prod Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to move fast on the proposed nuclear power plant at Jaitapur in Maharashtra, when French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius arrives in New Delhi on Sunday.

This will mark Paris’s formal engagement with the new BJP-led government even as the party’s ally, Shiv Sena, has been raising its pitch against the project.

Fabius will have a meeting with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and may also call on the prime minister to renew an invitation to visit France. Modi has already got an  invitation from French President Francois Hollande. 

Fabius is likely to push New Delhi hard to fast-track the proposed 9900 MWe nuclear power plant at Jaitapur in Ratnagiri district. The French nuclear company AREVA has been negotiating a techno-commercial agreement with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India to build six 1650 MWe European Pressure Reactors at the proposed plant.

However, as Maharashtra is set for  assembly polls by October,  BJP’s long term ally Shiv Sena is up in arms against the project. Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray believes that the atomic plant would be against local interest.  

The Modi government used President Pranab Mukherjee’s address to Parliament on June 9 last to vow to implement the civil nuclear agreement that India inked with the US and eight other countries — France, Russia, Argentina, Namibia, Canada, Kazakhstan, South Korea and Czech Republic — during the previous Congress-led the UPA regime.

 Modi is understood to be keen to continue his predecessor Manmohan Singh’s policy of developing nuclear power projects for civilian purposes.  The Shiv Sena has submitted a memorandum to the union government urging it to scrap the project. 

India and France signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement in December 2010 – two years after New Delhi secured a waiver from the Nuclear Supplier Group ending the bar on the country to engage in nuke commerce with other nations.  

Sources said that the negotiations between the AREVA and NPCIL, however, could not  resolve differences on certain issues. The unresolved issues include price of the reactors and the way India’s strict Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act would be applicable on the AREVA SA in the event of a mishap, they added.

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