American Nuclear Tech: It’s About Japan

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Ashok Parthasarathi writes in IE that the US nuclear reactor suppliers, in which Japanese companies Toshiba and Hitachi have a majority stake, by Japanese position cannot provide India reactors because India is a non-signatory to the NPT and the CTBT (we’re very unlikely to sign because they discriminate against us). That is the real roadblock, he says:

It is ironic that while “American” nuclear reactor suppliers, that is, those operating from US soil like Westinghouse and GE-Hitachi, are unable to ship reactors to India, the US government is pressing the GoI to amend our civil nuclear liability law to give US reactor suppliers “a level playing field” vis-à-vis their French and Russian counterparts. When the US government is confronted by GoI with the fact that both the French and Russian governments and their companies have clearly informed GoI that they have no difficulty whatsoever with our liability act and do not require GoI to ratify the international Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC) (which GOI has already signed), and the US government alone is pressing GoI to undertake such ratification, the US has no answer. When GoI reminds the US government that even if it were to ratify the CSC, the lack of a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement with the Japanese government would continue to prevent the sales of nuclear reactors by Westinghouse and GE-Hitachi, the US government has even less of an answer!

The US complains about the liability law when it doesn’t hurt the other countries. But all this posturing is temporary, in my opinion. While it has been slow, the progress in our own homegrown reactor building is encouraging, and in a few years, we are likely to have commercialized Thorium reactors. We’ll need uranium for it, but that’s less strenuous to obtain than an entire reactor. The current level of posturing is good for us in that it doesn’t dilute our own efforts by subverting policy to suit less advanced foreign technology.

But given the corruption rampant in the system, will the “kickbacks” that are a likely part of the buying game result in marginalizing our own research? (Oh, and I hope our private companies are allowed to and will participate in further research and implementation)

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