PARIS, Feb 4, 2009 (AFP) - French group Areva said Wednesday it had signed a draft accord to provide between two to six nuclear reactors to India, a huge new market now open with the end of a nuclear trade embargo on New Delhi.
"Areva and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited today (Wednesday) reached a protocol accord ... on the implantation of two to six European Pressurized Reactors (EPR)," Areva said in a statement following a signing ceremony in Delhi.
The deal also calls for the supply by Areva of fuel during the life of the reactors, which are to be located in Jaitapur in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.
"Of these six reactors, two should be ordered this year," Areva chief executive Anne Lauvergeon told AFP.
"India is a partner and a client of the first order," she added during a press conference. "We are deeply committed" to cooperation with India.
A 34-year-old embargo on civilian nuclear exchanges with India, imposed in 1974 following a series of Indian nuclear tests, was lifted last year.
France in September signed an agreement with India covering nuclear energy cooperation.
India currently has 17 nuclear reactors in operation that supply about 2.5 percent of the country's electricity.
The cost of one EPR has been estimated at between four and six billion euros (5.2-7.8 billion dollars), although final costs are subject to negotiation.
The third-generation EPR was launched in 1992 and has already been sold in France, Finland and China. The reactor was developed by French electricity utility EDF and German counterparts EON and RWE.
Designers of the EPR reactor, which was conceived with a lifespan of 60 years, point to a better use of fuel, a simpler security system and less production of waste among its advantages.
India, the world's 10th leading economic power and dependent on oil imports for 70 percent of its energy needs, is seeking an additional 60,000 megawatts of nuclear energy, which would require investment of about 100 billion euros over the next 15 years.
The potential for French firms in such a scheme is put at around 20 billion euros.
With the Indian deal, Areva has strengthened its hand against rivals Westinghouse and General Electric of the United States and Hitachi of Japan.