India to press ahead on nuclear power

WASHINGTON, June 24, 2011 (AFP) – India’s commerce minister called Thursday for more cooperation with the United States on nuclear energy and brushed aside talk of scrapping ambitious plans in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima crisis. On a visit to Washington, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said he has faced questions on whether India should rethink its nuclear energy policy and responded flatly: “My answer was no.”

While supporting safety reviews of nuclear establishments, Sharma said: “We are very clear it is an absolute must in the bouquet of energy resources which have to be accessed.”

“We feel that this is one area where collaboration or partnership has to be given more strength,” Sharma said at the US-India Business Council.

India’s fast-growing economy is heavily dependent on highly pollutant coal and imports of crude oil. Less than three percent of India’s electricity comes from nuclear power but it hopes to raise the figure to 25 percent by 2050.

India, shut out of global nuclear markets for decades due to concerns over its weapons program, in 2008 signed a landmark agreement championed by US president George W. Bush that opened up nuclear trade.

France, Russia and private US and Japanese firms have s