India is in advanced discussions with Russia to expand an upcoming nuclear power plant in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, the federal foreign secretary said Wednesday.

Nuclear Power Corp. of India, the state-owned monopoly, is building two 1000-MW reactors with Russia’s Rosatom Corp. at a cost of $2.6 bn at Kudankulam on Tamil Nadu’s coast. While the plant is near completion, protests by villagers opposing the project on safety concerns have delayed it.

Opposition to the plant gathered pace after the March 11 earthquake in Japan triggered the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 25 years.

Mathai denied media reports India has backed off from signing a contract with Russia for the reactors during Singh’s visit to avoid a fresh political storm in the southern state.

India and Russia will finalize agreements in the fields of health, science and defense during Singh’s trip, which is aimed at improving ties, Mathai said. Singh is scheduled to leave for Russia tomorrow.

Protests have also hit a nuclear facility at Jaitapur on India’s western coast where Areva SA plans to build a 9900 megawatt project. Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of the eastern state of West Bengal, announced in August that her state won’t allow a 1000 megawatt nuclear plant on its soil.

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