Westinghouse: India’s gateway to nuclear industry?


Amidst rising uncertainty over six India’s nuclear reactors after the US-based Westinghouse filed for insolvency in March, a school of thought has emerged advocating takeover of the subsidiary of Japan’s Toshiba by New Delhi to gain entrance to the club of countries with nuclear reactor manufacturing technology.

Founded in 1886 by George Westinghouse, Westinghouse Electric Company has been an industry leader in making nuclear reactors. The company’s prominence can be gauged from the fact that nearly half of the world’s nuclear units were produced by the Westinghouse. Hence, acquiring it would catapult India into being a major player in the global nuclear industry.

The mismanagement of funds and non-repayment of huge debts has put the company on the road to bankruptcy. New Delhi was negotiating a deal with the company to build six nuclear reactors in southern India and the new development made the traditionalists to caution the government against entering the contract. However, the others like Prof WPS Sidhu of Geneva Centre for Security Policy has called the Indian government to take “bold step” by keeping the long-term strategic interests in mind; and advises India to bid for Westinghouse.

Exhorting India to set aside its “short-term financial reasoning” to secure “long-term strategic and economic gains”, Sidhu wrote in his article in the Mint newspaper: “Acquiring Westinghouse would not only secure the six reactors that the company plans to build in India but would also make India a major player in the global nuclear market, competing with a state-of-the-art reactor.” Sidhu suggests that Indian consortium of public and private companies will also be a test case for the public-private partnership model promoted by the Narendra Modi government.

“While the Westinghouse AP1000 was an experimental reactor, which faced numerous teething troubles, most of these have now been resolved, albeit at a heavy cost. The revolutionary prefabricated plants, coupled with existing orders to build reactors in Bulgaria, China, the UK and the US, would make India part of a global nuclear supply chain. This would also strengthen India’s credentials for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG),” Sidhu said while providing further reasoning for the decision.

Acquisition of the company would also provide India a strategic advantage over China that has been developing its own reactors based on versions of AP1000 and has already made one unsuccessful bid for Westinghouse. India’s successful acquisition of Westinghouse will provide it with the necessary lever to make Beijing support its candidature for NSG.

Sidhu opined that bailing out Westinghouse from the financial quagmire will also bring them closer to Trump administration by helping the US in creating thousands of jobs in the US. But the question remains if India will seize the opportunity.