Clinton presses India for nuclear business

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed Tuesday for easier access to the Indian market for US nuclear energy firms, who are trailing their French and Russian competitors.

Former president George W. Bush concluded a landmark energy pact with India in 2008 that lifted an embargo on selling atomic technology to New Delhi imposed after the country's first nuclear test in 1974.

Despite the diplomatic efforts of Washington to push through the deal, privately run US firms such as Westinghouse and GE-Hitachi have so far lost out in the race to land contracts to build new reactors.

French and Russian state-run nuclear firms, backed by their deep-pocketed and active governments, have already mopped up billions of dollars of business to help India with its ambitious expansion plans for nuclear power.

"With regard to our civil nuclear agreement... we need to resolve those issues that still remain so we can reap the rewards of a robust energy partnership," Clinton said in opening remarks during her trip to India.

The main problem for US operators is a clause in India's new nuclear liability bill that makes the suppliers of reactors liable for 80 years for any accident at a plant.

While state-run groups have been happy to take on such risks, private companies are unwilling to sign up and are unable to find insurance to cover them for potentially crippling claims for damages.

India gets less than three percent of its energy from atomic power and it hopes to raise the figure to 25 percent by 2050.

© 2011 AFP

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