A Westinghouse team is already in India to negotiate the deal, Chief Executive Daniel Roderick told news agency Reuters, but talks are likely to go down to the wire, as the crucial issue of nuclear liability insurance for suppliers remains unresolved. The aim, however, was to make a "commercially significant announcement" during PM Modi's expected US visit in March and sign a final contract later in the year, Mr Roderick said.
A US diplomat said the United States had invited PM Modi to the March 31-April 1 Nuclear Security Summit and that Washington was thinking of turning the trip into a full-fledged official visit, which would give the Indian leader a similar reception as Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The Westinghouse contract would give a big boost to India's $150 billion nuclear power programme, and a broader push to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
"We need to see the details of the insurance company and how the insurance will work at a level beyond what we have seen so far," Mr Roderick said. "And that needs to happen in the next 30 to 45 days."
India has launched an insurance pool with a liability cap of over Rs 1 lakh crore to assuage suppliers' concerns, after a 2010 law gave the state-run operator Nuclear Power Corp of India Ltd (NPCIL) the right to seek damages from them in the event of an accident. Mr Roderick said that while the concept gave Westinghouse confidence to go ahead with a potential deal, the company still needed details of how the liability scheme would work before it can agree on commercial terms.
The NPCIL did not respond to requests for comment on the deal, which was put on the fast-track when President Barack Obama visited India in January last year.
The Westinghouse deal would be the first nuclear commercial power project since the United States and India first struck an agreement to cooperate in the civil nuclear arena a decade ago.
India has given two sites to US companies - Westinghouse and a nuclear venture between General Electric Co and Hitachi - to build six reactors each.