India and Japan will soon form a joint working group (JWG) that will identify the location, create joint ventures and establish a roadmap for building nuclear reactors in the country.
The JWG will comprise representatives from both private and public sectors of both countries. It will have representatives from Toshiba, Hitachi and Mitsubishi, among others, that are interested in building nuclear reactors in India, sources told BusinessLine. However, the liability issue still remains a major concern with the Japanese.
One of the main objectives of the JWG will be to find a way to address this issue by working jointly with the Indian government, sources said. A delegation from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) will visit India later this month to hold wide-ranging consultations with the Department of Atomic Energy (DEA), headquartered in Mumbai, sources added.
The deal, which culminated six years of negotiation, was signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Tokyo in November last year; it came into force in July 2017 after the Japanese Diet ratified it.
Under this deal, India will be the first country that is not a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) to obtain Japanese nuclear technology. As a result, the Japanese government is facing severe backlash from the Opposition parties there on exporting nuclear technology and goods to India. Besides, Japanese exporters continue to press the government to find a way out of the liability clause.
While the Japanese government has been able to push through the deal in the Diet, crucial questions still remain on Japanese companies’ liability in the event of a nuclear accident. This issue has become all the more critical for these firms following the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in 2011.
Sources added that the bankruptcy of US-based nuclear reactor builder Westinghouse Electric Corporation has also created hurdles for its partner Toshiba. Apart from this, Japan wants to address one of the most important clauses in the nuclear treaty, which specifies that the deal with India will be scrapped if India does any future testing of nuclear weapons developed by it.
Once implemented, the deal is expected to pave the way for smoother nuclear trade — not only in terms of nuclear technology but also nuclear material and nuclear equipment. This will also enable both sides to expedite negotiations for concluding the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.