Sunday, March 05, 2006

India ensured uninterrupted nuclear fuel supply

Daily Times - Site Edition

* US to help create reserve nuclear fuel for the lifetime of Indian reactors* India will not sign model NPT agreementBy Iftikhar GilaniNEW DELHI: India has ensured an uninterrupted supply of nuclear fuel for its reactors from a consortium of the United States, Russia, France and the United Kingdom through its recently concluded nuclear deal with Washington.Moreover, the US will also help create a reserve of nuclear fuel for the entire lifetime of India’s civilian nuclear reactors.Sources said on Saturday that India negotiated these two conditions in return for separating its civilian and military nuclear reactors in the deal with the US.They said that India extracted around half-a-dozen assurances to ensure permanent international safeguards co-terminus with permanent fuel supply commitments by the consortium. A declaratory assurance has been provided in the separation plan on “uninterrupted and continuous” supply of nuclear fuel for Indian civilian reactors under safeguards.The fuel supply assurance would also be incorporated into a trilateral agreement involving India, the US and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which will provide “sanctity” to the agreement, sources said.They said that a likely provision of the nuclear fuel supply from the four nuclear powers will be that others would help out in case of the suspension of supply by one.India also expressed a desire to build lifetime reserves of fuel for its civilian nuclear reactors and managed to get the following assurance in the separation plan: “The US will support the creation of such strategic reserves for the lifetime of the reactors.” If all this fails, India would retain its “sovereign right” to take “corrective action” in the case of disruption in fuel supply, sources said. Under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the IAEA has two kinds of safeguards and additional protocols: for the non-nuclear weapon state signatories and the five nuclear weapon state signatories.The nuclear weapon signatories voluntarily offer safeguards on their nuclear facilities, while the non-nuclear states who have signed the agreement have no choice in the matter. The standard additional protocol signed by the non-nuclear states contains sanctions for intrusive inspections by the IAEA, while the nuclear states can negotiate in the protocol the extent of the intrusion.Sources said that India wants its “de facto nuclear status to be as close as possible to a de jure status” and to distinguish it from the non-nuclear weapon states.It insisted that safeguards of its declared nuclear facilities in perpetuity must come with fuel supplies in perpetuity. The US also agreed to help India negotiate an additional protocol with the IAEA, different from the model agreement signed by non-nuclear weapon states.Sources refused to identify the 14 nuclear plants that India has agreed to put under IAEA safeguards but indicated that Tarapur IV, India’s largest atomic power plant, is excluded from the list. The nuclear facilities on which the Indian negotiators refused to give any information to the Americans, and which may be excluded from the IAEA safeguards list, include: Bhabha Atomic Research Centre at Trombay, Prithvi Missile Storage Facility at Nangal, Defence Research and Development Organisation Research Laboratory near Chandigarh, Narora I and II power reactors in Uttar Pradesh, Indira Gandhi Atomic Research Centre at Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu, Kakrapar I and II being built to produce plutonium and Kaiga in Karnataka, and the nuclear test site at Pokhran in Rajasthan.