There is another wrinkle in India-Russia relations, besides the known differences over Sistema’s telecom investments, the delays in the commissioning of aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov and the applicability of the nuclear liability legislation to units 3 and 4 of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project.
India and Russia are scouting for another site for a nuclear electricity park after the West Bengal government decided to cancel the allotment of a site in Haripur. This was to be the second nuclear park allotted to Russia, after Kudankulam. Both were supposed to have six reactors each. Haripur was to come up after all the six reactors at Kudankulam became operational.
Asked whether the Union government had abandoned the Haripur project, Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said: “I don’t know whether ‘abandon’ is the right word. We have been in consultation with our Russian friends… and there are some technical issues that have come to the fore, and we are working with them on finding another site.”
Mr. Akbaruddin said selecting the site for a nuclear facility was a complex affair, as it required a lot of data collection and information processing. “This is an ongoing discussion. These are technical matters which require our scientists and our nuclear agency to be in regular touch.”
Asked whether Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India was re-scheduled owing to differences over some mega projects, he said that in the past too, all Russian Presidents preferred to visit India in December.
“The dates are peripheral to the substance in the relations. Peripheral issues are nice parlour games, but we have moved beyond that.”
In the run-up to the “special exemption” India received from the Nuclear Suppliers Group’s export rules in September 2008, New Delhi agreed on a “road map” for 18 Russian reactors at three sites. The Russians understood this to mean that they would be awarded orders for 18 reactors, which they said would cost less. But Indian officials later let it be known that New Delhi would not be able to make firm financial commitments for all the plants at one go.
Thereafter, the Russians were hoping that once all reactors at Kudankulam were built, they would move on to Haripur. But the West Bengal government’s decision means that the hunt for a new site will begin afresh, at a time when anti-nuclear activists are protesting against nuclear power.