India-Russia special relation evident in Nuclear Energy Cooperation

India has so far inked 13 civil nuclear agreements since the time Indo-US civil nuclear deal ended its isolation. However, but for Russia no foreign player has been able to set up a nuclear reactor for myriad reasons. With Russia’s backing India has been able to make its foray into nuclear energy market by helping Bangladesh set up its first nuclear reactor.

Russia has been India’s arch patron in defence sector for a long time, but the support has been visible in the nuclear energy sector as well. Even as the naysayers have been questioning the safety records of Russian nuclear reactors, Moscow has been able to take giant strides in nuclear industry globally and has set foothold in India.

“Russia’s experience of setting up civilian nuclear reactors in the recent years have become more diversified than other nuclear power giants from France, US, Japan etc. The reach of its civilian nuclear cooperation agreements expands from Asia, Africa, Latin America, Middle East, Europe etc.,” Hina Pandey an associate with the Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS) told Nuclear Asia. She attributes Russia’s success to the country’s nuclear energy strategy since 2007 that is aimed at “consciously promoting the overhaul of nuclear energy industry with special focus in nuclear engineering”. The floating nuclear reactors are case in point.

Another thing that has contributed to a successful India-Russia collaboration in the nuclear sector is that it does not have a ‘no nuclear test’ clause. India-Russia nuclear cooperation has been really old. Moscow has believed in New Delhi’s non-proliferation credentials despite the latter being a non-signatory to the Nuclear non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).

“Russia can be said to be less picky in providing civilian nuclear cooperation agreements as compared to the US and France, this is not to suggest that Russia doesn’t care for nuclear non-proliferation – but in comparison to other players- we have seen that Russia in recent years has been forthcoming in providing civilian nuclear cooperation with various countries such as Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Hungary, Argentina, Brazil, India- some previous agreements such as Iran, North Korea etc.,” Pandey added.

Russia has been the only country that has been able to set up several units of nuclear reactors at the Kudankulam Plants in Tamil Nadu. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin during their last meeting had inked another agreement for the construction of the Units 5 and 6 of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plants. The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) is one of the largest nuclear power station in India. It is being constructed within the scope of the Russia-India Inter-Governmental Agreement. KKNPP is being built by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and Russia’s ASE Group of Companies, an engineering division of Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation. The Units 3,4,5,6 are likely to be commissioned in 2023, 2024, 2025 and 2026 respectively.