UK, India sign civil nuclear accord

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain has signed an agreement on nuclear energy cooperation with India, paving the way for an international conference, the government said Saturday.

The declaration, signed in New Delhi, will help British companies collaborate with Indian partners in civil nuclear technology and help both countries achieve energy security and low carbon growth, business minister Pat McFadden told Reuters in a telephone call.

The agreement will result in India attending a Nuclear New Build Conference in London between March 1-3, along with nuclear business and political leaders from 15 countries, including the United Arab Emirates.

McFadden said the declaration was in line with “our strong non-proliferation commitments.”

“The agreement really opens the door to a discussion that can begin between some of the best UK-based engineering companies and the nuclear authorities in India.

“Given that we in the UK are also going to be expanding our own civil nuclear power source in the coming years, getting that supply chain right not only for our own purposes but for the purposes of export is a major opportunity for British industry.”

Among the delegates will be representatives from the Nuclear Power Cooperation of India. McFadden said there was significant Indian expertise in this field, and both countries could learn from each other.

Britain was a market leader in the sector, with British-based industry earning 700 million pounds ($1.11 billion) in overseas business each year and employing 80,000 people, a spokeswoman for UK Trade & Investment, the British government’s trade arm, said.

India and the United States signed a civilian nuclear deal in 2008, ending India’s nuclear isolation since it tested a nuclear device in 1974 and opening up its atomic market for firms such as General Electric Co and Westinghouse Electric Co, a subsidiary of Japan’s Toshiba Corp.

But with delays in implementation of the deal, U.S. firms have lagged in a competitive scramble with Russian and French firms whose governments guarantee their liability in case of an industrial accident.

Britain is planning to build a new generation of nuclear powers plants at home, but will need French help to do so.

“It’s a long time since we built a nuclear power station, we’ve still got good engineering capacity but I think it’s fair to say that we want to strengthen our supply chain capacity, with a view to both our own expansion in civil nuclear power and the export opportunities in other countries who are doing so for much the same reasons that we are...”

In a separate announcement, McFadden said Britain and India had agreed a 10 million pound three-year research program to develop cost-effective and efficient solar energy solutions.

Writing by Avril Ormsby; Editing by Richard Williams