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India-South Korea to Operationalize Nuclear deal
Dec 29, 2014

With Japan continuing to stall a nuclear deal with India, India is getting ready to operationalise a three-year-old nuclear pact with South Korea. The two countries held their first nuclear talks in New Delhi recently.

India and Korea signed a nuclear agreement in July 2011 but did not take the next steps to operationalize it. This was partly due to India concentrating its energies on a Japan nuclear agreement, and respecting sensitivities in Japan regarding the Korean Peninsula. But Japan is yet to evolve its nuclear position vis-a-vis India, and it's not going to happen anytime soon, certainly not until India and the US have resolved their nuclear differences. The India-Japan impasse affects any progress in negotiations with France and the US, because both countries use critical Japanese components for their reactors.

But India needs to get its nuclear power sector going, particularly as it addresses the twin aims of energy security and lowering emissions. India is currently engaged in completing nuclear negotiations with several countries, while struggling to find a way around the problems created by its own nuclear liability legislation.

South Korea has worked on its nuclear power sector and is now the only credible alternative to Japan. In 2010, Korea stunned the nuclear world by bagging a 20 billion dollar contract to build nuclear reactors in the UAE from under the nose of market leader Areva.

South Korea has a similar number of reactors as India in the civilian sector, but produces one-third of its electricity. Like India, South Korea plans a 59 percent jump in nuclear power capacity by 2035. South Korea is the only other country that has built supplier liability in its nuclear legislation, though their way of working it is very different from India's.

Unlike India, South Korea does not have the right to reprocess spent fuel, which it lost with the first nuclear agreement with the US. That is something South Korea wants to change with its new 123 agreement scheduled for 2016.

The South Korean nuclear industry too is emerging from a series of charges of poor maintenance and accidents. Earlier this year, the South Korean government pumped in over 7 billion dollar into the nuclear power sector.

South Korea is also working on a fourth generation sodium fast reactor, reusing spent fuel, making use of US technology. It would be a project that India would be deeply interested in.


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