This can be the mother of all Indo-Russian joint projects and collaborations and this also explains why Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a stand-alone visit to India on December 24, albeit only for 15 hours.

India and Russia agreed to an ambitious roadmap for deepening their cooperation in civilian nuclear energy and construct together 16 to 18 nuclear energy plants in India of 1000 MW each. At today’s prices, the latest nuclear energy roadmap, whose broad contours are yet to be shaped up, could be worth a whopping $45 billion, sources told RIR.

Kudankulam nuclear plants Unit 1 and 2 have cost India slightly above one billion dollars apiece. For the third and fourth units, the Russians have already conveyed to the Indians that the prices would double in the wake of Indian government invoking new nuclear liability regime. Therefore, the proposed “16 to 18” nuclear power plants would be costing about $ 2.5 billion apiece and hence the figure of $45 billion, considering one takes the figure of 18 proposed plants.

The Nuclear Roadmap

 It is not yet clear whether the proposed roadmap is for 2020 or 2025 or 2030. Most likely, the roadmap would be targeting the deadline of the year 2030. But even if it is 2030 it would mean one new joint Indo-Russian nuclear plant every year for the next 18 years. This is apart from Kudankulam Units 3 and 4.

 From Indian point of view, the 22 total Indo-Russian nuclear plants, inclusive of the four Kudankulam units, would yield 22,000 MW of power to the Indian energy basket or 20 percent of the current total power production in India with the help of Russia alone.

From the Russian point of view, the moral of the story is even more encouraging. It means that the Kudankulam worries are no longer plaguing the Indo-Russian relations and the two sides have decided to embark on a far more meaningful, productive and ambitious partnership in the decades to come. It also suggests that Kudankulam 3 and 4 are the scripts that would eventually be written and it is a question of when, not if, this will be done.

Nuclear Energy on the Record

The joint statement released at the end of Putin’s visit gives a good measure of how India and Russia are poised to deepen and intensify their cooperation in the nuclear energy sector. Consider the following quote from the statement: “The sides reviewed the progress in bilateral cooperation in the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and reiterated their commitment to implementing the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the Russian Federation on cooperation in the construction of additional nuclear power plant units at Kudankulam site as well as in the construction of Russian designed nuclear power plants at new sites in the Republic of India, concluded on December 5, 2008; the agreement between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the Russian Federation on Cooperation in the Use of Atomic Energy for Peaceful Purposes and the Road Map for the Serial Construction of the Russian designed Nuclear Power Plants in the Republic of India, concluded on March 12, 2010.” (Emphasis added)

The two principals noted their satisfaction with regard to the progress in commissioning of the first unit of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) and agreed to take the necessary steps to expedite the completion and commissioning of the second unit. The two sides have already signed the protocol for the grant of State Credit from Russia to India for works, supplies and services for construction of Units 3 and 4 at Kudankulam and related fuel supplies. Putin and Singh agreed to conclude expeditiously the negotiations on the techno-commercial offer for the construction of Units 3 & 4.

The two sides also reiterated their commitment to incorporating the best technology in construction of nuclear power plants with a view to ensuring and maintaining the highest safety standards. India and Russia have already held the first meeting of the Joint Working Group between Department of Atomic Energy and State Corporation Rosatom in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear energy held in Moscow in July 2012 and Putin and Singh welcomed this outcome.

A point emphasised by the joint statement relates to the complementarities between India and Russia in the energy sector as a major buyer and supplier of hydrocarbons. At today’s summit the two leaders reviewed the ongoing efforts to establish joint cooperation ventures between Indian and Russian companies and reaffirmed their intention to continue the implementation of the Inter-Governmental Agreement on cooperation in the hydrocarbon sector signed on December 21, 2010.

The highly productive talks on the long-term nuclear energy cooperation roadmap is perhaps the most important take-away for both sides and a high watermark for Putin’s successful India visit.

The writer is a New Delhi-based journalist-author and strategic analyst.