India wants new tests before French reactors order

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India wants new test results in light of the Fukushima disaster before finalising a multi-billion-euro order for new reactors with French nuclear energy giant Areva, France's Energy Minister Eric Besson said Monday.

Besson told AFP that India's nuclear agency chief Srikumar Banerjee had told him in talks on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the UN atomic watchdog that he wanted a "post-Fukushima certification."

The Indian message was however passed on in a "very positive" fashion, Besson said at the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.

France's nuclear safety authority is due to give by the end of 2011 its first recommendations on nuclear power plants since the Japanese disaster, including an opinion on the latest generation European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), currently under construction in France and Finland and the type eyed by India.

The disaster in March at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant, caused when an earthquake and tsunami knocked out reactor cooling systems, has caused reactor orders around the world to be scrapped, frozen or delayed.

India, which along with China is a major market for new nuclear plants, signed last December a framework deal worth an estimated seven billion euros ($9.5 billion) for Areva to build two EPR reactors, plus an option for four more.

Once finalised, it would allow Areva to steal a march on US and Japanese competitors in the race to sell reactors to India, which aims to tap atomic power for a quarter of its power by 2050 from less than three percent now.

A 34-year-old embargo on civilian nuclear exchanges with India, imposed in 1974 following a series of Indian nuclear tests, was lifted in 2009 after years of negotiations between India and the United States.

© 2011 AFP

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