Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. has signed a memorandum of understanding on next-generation reactors for India as the Canadian government closes in on a nuclear co-operation deal with the South Asian nation.
It’s a watershed moment for Canada, which angrily stopped nuclear co-operation with India in 1974 after the government used plutonium from a Canadian reactor to build an atomic bomb.
International Trade Minister Stockwell Day made the announcement recently from Mumbai, where he was wrapping up a four-day trade mission with some of the top CEOs of Canada’s nuclear industry.
The international community agreed last September to lift the three-decade ban on nuclear trade with India — even though India still refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The end of the moratorium has sparked a global sales rush to the rising economic power, which wants to build 25 to 30 new reactors in coming years.
“The signals we got very clearly from the government here is that there is room for Canada, there’s room for Canada’s industry and they want Canada involved,” Day said. Indian officials are very interested in buying Canadian components, uranium and hazardous waste treatment systems, he said.
AECL, the troubled Crown corporation that has recently undergone a privatization review by the Conservative government, signed a deal this week with a leading Indian engineering firm to start costing out Candu ACR-1000 reactors — the prelude to a possible sale.
A formal government-to-government agreement permitting international nuclear inspections must be finalized before any commercial deals are sealed.
“It represents a huge opportunity for Canada and for the Canadian nuclear industry as a whole, not just AECL,” said Dale Coffin, a spokesman for the corporation.
Day said he expects uranium sales from Canadian giant Cameco Corp., whose senior executives accompanied Day on the trade mission, could “move ahead very quickly.”