US to send nuclear mission to India

US to send nuclear mission to India

Washington: The United States said Wednesday that it would send a mission to India in December to explore business opportunities following a landmark pact to open up sales of civilian nuclear technology to the country.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee signed the agreement last week that lifted a three-decade ban on US-Indian civilian nuclear trade imposed after India’s first nuclear test in 1974.

“I am pleased to announce that the Commerce Department has certified the US-India Business Council for a civil nuclear trade mission to India this coming December," US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrrez said.

Council President Ron Somers has projected $150 billion worth of business between US and Indian companies over the next 30 years following the deal, which offers India access to US technology and cheap atomic energy in return for allowing UN inspections of some of its civilian nuclear facilities.

“US-India bilateral trade in 2007 was nearly $42 billion, up 55% from 2005," Gutierrez said at a council meeting Wednesday aimed at tapping business opportunities in India’s ‘clean energy’ market.

The council is a key business advocacy group representing 280 of the largest US companies investing in India.

Gutierrez said that while US companies were eager to contribute to India’s developing nuclear power sector, they required nuclear liability protection in order to do business.

“India must draft and ratify a domestic law" consistent with the international Convention of Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage," he added.

India last month wrote a letter of intent to sign up to the convention, which US businesses want in order to reduce their liability in the event of a catastrophe.

Gutierrez said India had the potential to be one of the world’s largest clean energy markets as it was projected to overtake China and have the world’s largest population in about two decades.

“India will need to expand its primary energy supply by at least three times and its electricity supply by five times its current consumption to sustain economic growth," he said.

“Clean energy technologies have moved to the forefront of India’s energy infrastructure and investment opportunities," he said.

“Increased use of these technologies will help address environmental problems and growing demand for fossil fuels," he added.