India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (L) and Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev.

India plans to start Russian-built nuclear plant soon

India plans to start up a Russian-built nuclear power plant within weeks, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says.

After talks in Moscow with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, whose country is eager to build more nuclear power plants abroad, Singh said the first two reactors at the Kudankulam plant were close to being activated.

The power station in the southern state of Tamil Nadu is one of several planned power projects that are seen as vital to plugging huge electricity shortages that have damaged economic growth.

However, protests by local people against the power station gathered pace after the Fukushima accident in Japan in March.

"We are confident that we will be able to persuade some of these people that their concerns are adequately taken care of, that our nuclear plants are safe and sound and there is nothing to worry about with regards to their safety," Singh said.

"I am therefore confident that in a couple of weeks we should be able to go ahead with operationalising Kudankulam, and thereafter, by a period of six months, Kudankulam 2."

The two countries have been in talks to build two more reactors at Kudankulam. Russia's Itar-Tass news agency cited the head of state nuclear power firm Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, as saying Russia would provide India with a multi-billion dollar loan for the project, though no agreement was signed on Friday.

Russia is keen to exploit its nuclear know-how, having already built two reactors in China and one in Iran that was plugged into the network in September.

Rising tensions over Tehran's nuclear programme were on the leaders' agenda. Both countries urged Iran to cooperate with UN efforts to ensure it was not seeking nuclear arms, Russia and India said in a statement, but agreed that sanctions could be counterproductive.

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