An MoU inked between Indian and American firms for setting up a nuclear reactor in Gujarat does not mean that America’s concerns over India’s nuclear liability law have been addressed, a top US official has said.

“No, it doesn’t mean that issues with respect to the liability law are resolved,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Mr Robert Blake, told presspersons yesterday at a news conference.

“The Westinghouse MoU marks a very significant step towards the fulfilment of our landmark civil nuclear cooperation agreement,” he said.

A day earlier, Secretary of State, Ms Hillary Clinton, and the External Affairs Minister, Mr S. M. Krishna, termed the MoU as progress towards the full implementation of the historic Civil Nuclear Initiative, including the Memorandum of Understanding signed between Westinghouse and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL).

The MoU committed both sides to negotiate an Early Works Agreement for the preliminary licensing and site development work associated with construction of the new Westinghouse reactors in Gujarat.

At the same time there is ongoing progress between General Electric-Hitachi and NPCIL on their memorandum of understanding.

“I think both of our countries wanted to show that we still share a strong interest in seeing these commercial contracts come to fruition,” Mr Blake said.

“We do have some concerns about the liability law, but the signing of this MoU and the future conclusion of early works agreements will provide concrete evidence of our intention to move forward, and, particularly from our perspective, the interest of our companies in continuing to work with NPCIL to develop very promising opportunities in what will be a $40-billion sector,” Mr Blake said in response to a question.

(This article was published on June 15, 2012)
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