Harper ‘Intervening’ in Indian Nuclear Talks, Cameco Says

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is “personally intervening” in inter-government talks to help the country sell nuclear fuel and equipment to India, uranium producer Cameco Corp.’s chief executive officer said.

“For Canada to fully participate with India, we need that bilateral agreement,” Tim Gitzel said today in a telephone interview from Cameco’s headquarters in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. “We are very appreciative that the PM is personally intervening to help move that forward.”

Rudy Husny, a spokesman for Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment outside of normal business hours in India, where he’s traveling with the government delegation. Harper is on a six-day trip and will meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tomorrow.

Canada and India signed a cooperation pact in June 2010, the first step toward enabling the Canadian nuclear industry to sell materials and equipment for civilian use to the world’s ninth-largest economy. As of last month, India had 20 operable nuclear reactors, compared with China’s 15 and Canada’s 18, according to data from the World Nuclear Association. India also has seven reactors under construction and plans to build a further 18, the data show.

Harper’s direct involvement in the talks increases the chances of an agreement while the prime minister is in India this week, Gitzel said.

“We aren’t privy to discussions between the governments,” he said. “We believe there’s a strong willingness to get an agreement.”

Tracing Exports

Before allowing exports to begin, Canada is asking India to ensure they can be traced, in line with standards met by countries such as the U.S. India says such safeguards aren’t necessary since it already complies with standards set by the International Atomic Energy Agency, according to Stewart Beck, Canada’s high commissioner to India.

“The Indians are saying that they report through the IAEA, and because of that, that should be adequate,” he told reporters in Agra, India, yesterday. “We are concerned about where Canadian nuclear material goes.”

Ed Fast said today he’s optimistic the deal can be completed in the “near future.”

Minimal Impact

Even if a deal between the two countries isn’t signed right away, the impact of a delay on Cameco would be minimal, David Sadowski, a Vancouver-based analyst at Raymond James Ltd. who rates Cameco a buy, said today by telephone.

“India’s not extremely important in the near term,” Sadowski said, because the country’s nuclear liability legislation that holds power plant builders legally responsible if there is an accident is slowing expansion of the country’s nuclear power capacity.

“The international standard is to indemnify foreign reactor vendors,” he said. “So they’re being scared off by this law right now and we aren’t seeing the speed of reactor building that we expected.”

Cameco fell 1.4 percent to C$18.24 at 3:20 p.m. in Toronto.

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