NEW, DELHI/PARIS – India and Russia on Friday signed a pact to build six more nuclear reactors at a new site in India following summit talks between their leaders in New Delhi.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also agreed to cooperate on India’s plan for a manned space mission.
Russian state-owned reactor manufacturer Rosatom said in a statement that the two countries want to build six Russian-designed nuclear reactors on a new site in India, boost nuclear cooperation in third countries and new nuclear technologies and are considering building nuclear plants together.
The firm said Russia would offer to build its third-generation VVER reactor on the new site and would increase the level of participation of Indian companies in the project.
A Rosatom official said the pact is not a firm contract yet, but an agreement to work towards a contract.
India has not chosen the new site yet, which could be controversial as the country has seen vehement protests against new nuclear sites.
If confirmed, the agreement would be one of the biggest nuclear industry deals in recent years, and would bind the two countries for decades.
Two Russian-built VVER-1000 reactors have been in commercial operation in Kudankulam, southern India, since 2014 and 2017 respectively. Construction on two more started last year with a target for commercial start-up in 2025 and 2026.
Last year, the Russian and Indian governments signed an agreement to build reactors 5 and 6 on the site and Putin said at the time that Russia is ready to build a dozen reactors in India over the next 20 years.
“We expect to start building a series of new units at a second site in India in the near future,” Rosatom Director-General Alexey Likhachev said in a statement.
Rosatom has become the world’s largest nuclear reactor builder as the financial problems of the two big Western firms Westinghouse and Areva have crimped their ability to develop nuclear plants abroad.
Rosatom operates 35 reactors in Russia with a combined capacity of 28 gigawatts and says it has a portfolio of 36 nuclear power plant projects in 12 countries.
Westinghouse and Areva, now owned by EDF, have for years negotiated deals to build reactors in India but have made little progress, partly because Indian nuclear liability legislation gives reactor manufacturers less protection against claims for damages in case of accidents.
India is the world’s third-biggest oil importer, and two industry sources have said it will buy 9 million barrels of Iranian oil in November, indicating it will continue purchasing crude from Iran despite U.S. sanctions coming into force on Nov. 4.
“Refiners have placed November nominations to lift 1.25 million tons (about 9 million barrels) of oil from Iran,” one of the sources said.
Indian Oil Corp. will lift 6 million barrels of Iranian oil and Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd. 3 million barrels, the source said.
The United States plans to impose new sanctions targeting Iran’s oil sector on Nov. 4 to try to stop the country’s involvement in conflicts in Syria and Iraq and bring Tehran to the negotiating table over its ballistic missile program.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in India last month that the Trump administration would consider waivers for Iranian oil buyers such as India but they must eventually bring the imports to zero.
Indian refiners imported around 10 million barrels of Iranian oil in October, and its November shipments are expected to be lower.
In the previous round of sanctions from 2012 to 2015, India continued to buy Iranian crude, although it had to cut purchases significantly to protect its wider exposure to the U.S. financial system.
India’s foreign minister said in May it abides only by sanctions imposed by the United Nations and not those imposed by any other country.
With the European Union considering the creation of a “special purpose vehicle” before November to facilitate trade with Iran, India hopes to find a way to settle payments to Tehran.