The Bush administration's nuclear accord with the Indian government was the focus of a Senate committee hearing Tuesday, with witnesses underscoring the benefits to both the United States and India.
In testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Michael Gadbaw, vice president for international law and policy at the General Electric Company, said the U.S.-India nuclear agreement would be good for the U.S. economy.
"The opening of the civilian nuclear relationship will deepen the support for American jobs. For every order we receive for a one-and-a-half gigawatt power plant, we anticipate U.S. exports in the neighborhood of $1billion, which would equate to supporting around 10,000 U.S. jobs," said Gadbaw.
The Washington Post newspaper Tuesday reports that General Electric is one of only four companies worldwide that build the most sensitive components of civilian nuclear power plants like those planned for India. The others include France's state-controlled Areva, the Toshiba Corporation, and Russia's Atomprom.
The newspaper says other U.S. companies hope to win related contracts to build containment structures for the Indian plants, sell turbines or provide services for the handling of waste.
Under the accord, reached during President Bush's visit to India earlier this year, India would be allowed access to U.S. civilian nuclear technology in return for a pledge to open its nonmilitary nuclear facilities to international inspections.
David Pumphrey, deputy assistant secretary for international energy cooperation at the Energy Department, says the deal will help meet India's growing energy needs:
"They rank about fifth in the world in terms of energy consumption. Last year, I believe they were sixth, so they are moving upwards in terms of other major countries. They passed Germany this year in terms of their energy consumption," said Pumphrey.
But some lawmakers remain concerned that the agreement with India, which has refused to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, could harm efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.
"I think all of us are concerned about the growth of nuclear communities and what it means and how waste or the byproducts are controlled or managed," commented Senator Larry Craig, an Idaho Republican.
Administration officials again dismissed such concerns, saying the agreement would strengthen nonproliferation efforts by putting a majority of India's nuclear plants under international inspections.
"We support this deal because we believe it will actually help counter global proliferation," noted Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Paul Simons. "It will have a net positive impact in terms of our global nonproliferation strategy."
Before the deal goes into effect, Congress must amend the U.S. Atomic Energy Act, which currently bans nuclear sales to countries that have not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.