American nuclear power companies on Monday said they have to take the required authorisation from the Barack Obama administration to commence exports of nuclear technology to India while hoping to start preliminary work during 2010.

“U.S. companies have to take necessary authorisation from the administration, this is the next important step [in implementing the India-U.S. 123 agreement],” Timothy Richards, the Managing Director of International Energy Policy, General Electric said here, after a meeting of the CII-USIBC joint task force on commercial nuclear power.

A separate fact sheet circulated at the conference underlined the criticality of an agreement on non-proliferation assurance between India and the U.S. so that the U.S. Department of Energy can begin to issue specific authorisation for India.

“Without these authorisations, the U.S. and Indian companies cannot have meaningful negotiations and discussions about nuclear power projects, which must occur before contracts are signed,” it said.

Mr. Richards said both India and the United States were yet to conclude the nuclear fuel reprocessing agreement, New Delhi also had to enact the nuclear liability law. U.S. Ambassador to India Timothy Roemer, Mr. Richards said, told the meeting that negotiations on the issue were progressing towards conclusion. Besides, he said the U.S. companies were yet to be allocated the two sites identified by India for setting up nuclear reactors using American technology.

Asked whether the U.S. companies would ensure lifetime fuel supply to the reactors they set up, Meena Mutyala, the vice-president of Westinghouse Electric Company said that as per the 123 agreement, India could approach alternative sources for fuel in the event of a change in U.S. policy.

She said the hope was that the American companies would be able to get into some contract in 2010 and start site preparations while the actual contracts would take longer.

While India has earmarked two sites — Chhayamithi Virdi in Gujarat and Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh — for nuclear power plants by U.S companies, the allocation was yet to be made.

The companies are likely to set up six to seven plants each to generate 10,0000 MW power, she said. The state-of-the-art Westinghouse 1100 MW reactors would be 100 per cent safe than those in use in the United States, she said.

S.A. Bohra, Advisor to Tata (Nuclear) Power, who co-chaired the meeting, said issues related to participation of private utilities were focus of discussions. He stressed the need to amend the Atomic Energy Act to facilitate private participation in the domestic nuclear sector. The government should also focus on setting up national training centres.

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