India and Sri Lanka on Friday opened talks on a civil nuclear agreement, which government sources said would help assuage Colombo’s concerns about the Kudankulam nuclear plant. While the chances of the pact leading to export of nuclear plants are slim, two of its components — nuclear safety and response to a nuclear accident will address their concerns on the Kudankulam plant, they said. A joint statement at the end of the talks said “both sides exchanged views on all aspects of civil nuclear cooperation.”
Other benefits of the pact, which is unlikely in the near future as the second round of talks have been scheduled for next year, would be in non-power areas such as health, agriculture and irrigation. Sri Lanka has been exploring non-power nuclear applications, which India has tried to address by gifting a Bhabatron cancer therapy machine.
The issue of safety in case of a nuclear accident became a major talking point in Sri Lanka around the time protests over the Kudankulam nuclear plant were peaking. After the Indian High Commission in Colombo came out with a clarification, Sri Lanka had expressed interest in a meeting between the nuclear departments to address this issue.
Sri Lanka has been talking of choosing the nuclear power plant option in the long-term.