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India Seeks Greater Nuclear Energy Cooperation With Russia


India has welcomed Russia's decision to supply uranium to power two nuclear reactors. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov has been meeting with Indian officials on greater energy cooperation.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says New Delhi "warmly appreciates" Moscow's decision this week to meet India's requirements for uranium to fuel two nuclear power reactors at the Tarapur facility.

Mr. Singh made the comments after meeting with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov Friday in the Indian capital.

The controversial deal comes even though India is not normally qualified to receive nuclear fuel, because it is not party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The Russian prime minister defended the uranium sale in New Delhi, saying it does not violate international guidelines, and is in the interest of both countries. Russia is invoking a special clause that allows such sales, if necessary, to ensure safe operations at nuclear power plants.

Mr. Singh expressed hopes for more cooperation on nuclear energy projects with Russia, which he called a "tried and trusted friend." This includes Russian help in building a new atomic power plant in Tamil Nadu state.

"We envision a substantial increase in the share of nuclear energy in India's overall energy mix," said Mr. Singh. "We see the Kudankulam project as a flagship of our cooperation in this area. I am confident both countries will utilize opportunities to expand our partnership in civil nuclear energy cooperation."

Currently, only three percent of India's growing energy needs are met by nuclear power.

Russia's decision to supply India with uranium has come in the wake of a landmark nuclear cooperation deal between India and the United States.

If approved by the U.S. Congress, Washington will share nuclear power technology and equipment with India. In return, India will separate its military and civilian nuclear programs, and will submit most of its atomic power plants to international inspection.

Washington has criticized the Russian uranium sale as premature and wants Moscow to wait until India puts these safeguards in place.

Many countries, including France and Britain, have said they support U.S. efforts to make nuclear energy technology available to India. Others, like Australia, say they have no immediate intention of lifting the ban on the sale of uranium to India.