India and France today inked an an agreement to expedite the Jaitapur nuclear power plant project, with the aim of commencing work at the site around the year-end.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron encouraged the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and EDF France to accelerate the contractual discussions for the project, which is yet to see a consensus on key aspects such as credit limits.
The two leaders emphasised on the need for the project to generate cost-effective electricity, remain economical and competitive financing package from the French side with reliable, uninterrupted and continued access to guaranteed fuel supply for the lifetime of the power plant.
They also agreed to further their collaboration on transfer of technology and cost-effective localisation efforts of manufacturing in India.
"The two leaders reiterated the goal of commencing works at the Jaitapur site around the end of 2018, and encouraged NPCIL and EDF to accelerate the contractual discussions in that respect," a joint statement released after the delegation-level talks said.
The EDF and the NPCIL is yet to agree on the cost per unit and the credit aspect, which France will give to India for building the plant in Maharashtra.
Indian sources also said that unless the EDF is out of its financial mess, the NPCIL will not go ahead with a final contract or a General Framework Agreement with the French company.
Besides defence and space, nuclear energy is a key component of the Indo-French strategic partnership.
The Indo-French nuclear agreement was signed in 2008 and it was decided to build a nuclear power plant in Jaitapur, in coastal Maharashtra, some 600 km south of Mumbai. The power plant will have six reactors with a capacity of 1,650 MW each.
Once installed, the Jaitapur project will be the largest nuclear power plant in the world, with a total capacity of 9,600 MW.
The two sides also welcomed the understanding shared on the enforcement of India's rules and regulations on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages applicable to the Jaitapur project.
"The understanding is based on the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act 2010, the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Rules 2011, and compliance of India's rules and regulations with the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, ratified and notified to the IAEA," the statement said.
In the past, the foreign players have raised concerns over the civil liability law in the country.
Modi thanked Macron for France's leadership that led to India's membership of the Wassenaar Arrangement.
He also thanked France for supporting India's membership to the Australia Group.
India is already a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and its membership for this control regime was also backed by Paris.
France is one of the strong votaries for India's inclusion in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a crucial export control regime of which New Delhi is not a member. However, India's membership bid is opposed by China.
"In order to further strengthen global non-proliferation, France reaffirmed its strong and active support to building consensus among regimes' members on the issue of India's membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, recognising that India's accession will add value to the aims and objectives of these regimes," the joint statement said.
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