India signs a $9.3bn nuclear deal with France

AFP, Monday 6 Dec 2010

A $9.3bn deal was signed between France and India during an official visit to New Delhi by French President Nicolas Sarkozy

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh talks to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, after a joint press conference in New Delhi, Dec. 6, 2010 (AP)

France signed a $9.3 billion framework agreement to sell two nuclear reactors to India on Monday during a trade-centred visit by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to New Delhi.

India inked the deal with France's state-run nuclear group Areva for the purchase of two reactors for a new plant in Jaitapur in the western state of Maharashtra.

"Negotiations (with Areva) have reached an advanced stage to pave the way for the launching of nuclear power reactors in Jaitapur in partnership with Indian industry," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a joint press conference.

The deal is short of a final sale contract, but it means Areva has moved ahead of US and Japanese competitors in the race to sell reactors to India, which aims to tap atomic power for a quarter of its electricity demands by 2050.

Russia is already constructing two nuclear power units in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

Deals totalling €15 billion ($20 billion) have been signed or are about to be signed with Indian companies, Sarkozy's office said, including a leasing agreement for 14 Airbus planes and the modernisation of 51 French-made Mirage fighter jets.

The French leader is on a four-day trip to India, where he is seeking deeper trade ties while seeking to build a partnership with a country seen as a counterbalance in Asia to China.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama have both swept through India with similar messages recently, as Western nations look for export opportunities in a fast-growing country seen as a natural ally.

Sarkozy came with a delegation of six ministers and around 70 chief executives, including the heads of aircraft and defence groups Dassault Aviation, aircraft maker EADS and Areva.

The nuclear group hopes to supply six reactors in total for the Maharashtra nuclear plant. The first two are worth €7.0 billion, according to the French presidency.

Areva boss Anne Lauvergeon said that the construction of the reactors would begin next year, with the first electricity expected to be generated in 2018. The group would also enter into partnerships with Indian suppliers, she said.

The agreement "shows the willingness of France to propose a total partnership to India in the area of civil nuclear power", Sarkozy told the press conference with Singh.

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