TORONTO – Canada has concluded negotiations on a nuclear cooperation agreement with India to sell nuclear technology and materials to the energy-starved South Asian nation, Canada's prime minister said Saturday.
Conservative leader Stephen Harper said the agreement would allow Canadian firms to export and import controlled nuclear materials, equipment and technology to and from India.
"Increased collaboration with India's civilian nuclear energy market will allow Canadian companies to benefit from greater access to one of the world's largest and fastest expanding economies," Harper said during a meeting with India's Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, following the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago.
In a statement issued Saturday, Harper said Canada and India will now take the necessary steps to finalize and implement the agreement, which will open up the lucrative Indian market to Canadian nuclear exports for the first time in more than three decades.
Trade Minister Stockwell Day announced earlier this year that government-owned Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. had signed a memorandum of understanding with India for next-generation nuclear reactors.
It was a turning point for Canada, which stopped nuclear co-operation with India in 1974 after its government used plutonium from a Canadian reactor to build an atomic bomb.
The international community lifted a three-decade ban on nuclear trade with India last September even though India still refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Some anti-nuclear activists worry India will stockpile domestic uranium for military weapons and use uranium imports for civilian purposes.
Day said Canadian negotiators insisted India allow nuclear inspectors into civilian facilities. Under the deal, Canadian nuclear exports cannot be used for military purposes, he said.
Now that the moratorium has ended, countries are lining up to sell nuclear technology to India, which wants to build 25 to 30 new reactors in the coming years.
"India's needs for nuclear energy are enormous, just as we need a lot more energy to make a success of our developing presence," Prime Minister Singh said Saturday.
Atomic Energy of Canada said earlier this year that it is eyeing foreign markets for its next-generation ACR 1000 reactors.
AECL has already signed a deal with a leading Indian engineering firm to start costing out the ACR 1000s -- the prelude to a possible sale.
Saskatchewan's Cameco Corp., is also poised to sell uranium to India.
Canada's nuclear energy industry generates approximately $6.2 billion in annual revenue, $1.12 billion in exports each year and employs approximately 31,000 people.