Pm modi, vladimir putin may discuss energy, nuclear issues at ‘no-agenda’ summit gas bijoux soho

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During informal summits, world leaders can get a better understanding of global issues in the absence of pre-set agendas. With China, reducing the tension on the border was important but with Russia, a trusted all-weather partner, increasing trade ties and stepping up defence and atomic energy cooperation could be priority. The meltdown of the Iranian nuclear deal after the US unilaterally pulled out of it would come up for sure, especially since India has ‘civilizational links’ with Iran. The patch up happening between North and South Korea over nuclear weapons is also going to be on the table. But closer home, atomic talks related to Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant are also likely to be part of the summit. PM Modi is expected to reassert India’s avowed position of complete denuclearisation of these weapons of mass destruction from the world. Indo-Russian atomic energy cooperation could also be reviewed at the highest level. Reports suggest that India has invested nearly $5 billion in the Russian energy sector. Bilateral civil nuclear co-operation could be very high on the agenda. Two Russian-made 1000 MW atomic power plants are already working at Kudankulam and two more plants are already under construction. The first pair came at a cost of about Rs 20,000 crore and the next at Rs 40,000 crore with localisation amounting to about Rs 12,000 crore, say sources at India’s Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL). The two leaders may give that much-needed final bilateral push for the completion of the contract for the third pair of reactors at Kudankulam. The last of the two 1000 MW reactors at Kudankulam could come at a cost of Rs 50,000 crores and PM Modi may assert that Russia accept a lot more of localisation of technology under his pet Make in India project. This would also help reduce the costs. India believes nuclear is an important carbon-free source of energy to mitigate climate change. But atomic experts say, discussion on the second site for the Russian Nuclear Park would be on the anvil. In the 2014 Indo-Russian ‘Strategic Vision’ document on nuclear cooperation, the two countries have committed themselves to building in all 16 nuclear reactors in the next two decades. In all, six reactors will come up at Kudankulam and the remaining six at another site. Today, it seems the next set of six reactors could come up in Andhra Pradesh. It is hoped that later this year in October, at the proposed formal summit, the two countries will announce the allotment of the second nuclear park site to Russia. India is hoping to order the updated and upgraded version of the Kudankulam light water reactors, each of these new ones would be 1200 MW and the first of those is already functioning Russia at Novovoronezh, some 500 km south off Moscow. It became operational in 2017. Beyond that there could be third site where four reactors could be placed in the long run. The Indo-Russian nuclear deal is well worth over Rs 4,50,000 crores and could be the mother of all deals. It may be worth noting that as part of the agreement for the Indo-US Civilian Nuclear Deal, India has committed to buy 10,000 MW of reactors from USA and France. But unfortunately, both the French nuclear company Areva and the American atomic giant Westinghouse ran into financial trouble and declared bankruptcy, and the new owners are still taking charge in both the countries. In all possibility, India may not order either French or American reactors for the next three to four years till these ‘new technologies’ are safely operating. In addition and not merely as a footnote, India’s maiden nuclear venture abroad in Bangladesh could also be discussed. At Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, almost on the Indian border, Bangladesh is making two Russian-made 1200 MW reactors.