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Nations eye India's vast nuclear market

The US Senate passed a deal Wednesday to let America join Russia and France in supplying India's huge energy needs.

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With an emphatic vote Wednesday, the US Senate assured that America will take part in India's $100 billion nuclear-energy sweepstakes.

The 86-to-13 vote to resume civilian nuclear trade with India for the first time since 1974 is a signature diplomatic achievement for the Bush administration, cementing ties with a nation seen as a counterweight to China.

But it is also a major piece of business. In 20 years, India aims to increase its nuclear power 10-fold, and will rely on international businesses to do it.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh struck a deal Tuesday to open nuclear trade with France – a deal the Indian Chamber of Commerce estimates to be worth $29 billion. Russia is already helping India build two reactors.

Before Wednesday, US business leaders were worried about being left behind. They estimate that the deal could create 200,000 jobs in the US and revive an industry that has not built a new plant in the US for a decade.

India's plans involve "a huge amount of money," says Ted Jones of the US-India Business Council. "Even a modest slice of it is huge."

President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will visit Delhi this weekend to mark the finalization of the deal, which was first proposed in 2005.

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