Canada Closes in on Nuclear Deal With India

Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. signed a memorandum of understanding Thursday on next-generation reactors for India as the Canadian government closes in on a cooperation deal with the long-time nuclear renegade nation.

Canada's international trade minister Stockwell Day said India is interested in buying Canadian components, uranium and hazardous waste treatment systems to help build 25 or 30 new reactors. Day made the announcement from Mumbai, where he was wrapping up a four-day trade mission with some of the top CEOs of Canada's nuclear industry.

"The signals we got very clearly from the government here is that there is room for Canada, there's room for Canada's industry and they want Canada involved," Day said from Mumbai.

It's a pivotal moment for Canada, which stopped nuclear co-operation with India in 1974 after the government used plutonium from a Canadian reactor to build an atomic bomb.

At the urging of the United States, the international community agreed last September to lift the three-decade ban on nuclear trade with India, even though India still refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The end of the moratorium has sparked a global sales rush to the rising economic power, which wants to build the new reactors in coming years.

AECL, the troubled government-controlled corporation that has recently undergone a potential privatization review by Canada's Conservative government, signed a deal this week with a leading Indian engineering firm to start costing out Candu ACR 1000 reactors — the prelude to a possible sale.

A formal government-to-government agreement that permits international nuclear inspections must be finalized before any commercial deals are sealed.

"It represents a huge opportunity for Canada and for the Canadian nuclear industry as a whole, not just AECL," said Dale Coffin, a spokesman for the corporation.

Since the 45-country Nuclear Suppliers Group lifted the international ban Sept. 7, the global community has been rushing to get India's business.

France's Areva just signed a deal to supply the country with enriched uranium. Britain had a government delegation trolling for business this week, meeting the same Indian officials as Day.

Russia, the United States and Kazakhstan — the world's third largest uranium producer behind Canada and Australia — are all eager to do business.

Day said he expects uranium sales from Canadian giant Cameco Corp. could move ahead very quickly.