India gets reprocessing rights

India gets reprocessing rights

Washington: Asserting it has got the right to ask for return of nuclear fuel transferred by it in the event of India conducting a nuclear test, the US has said it would not help New Delhi find alternative sources of fuel in that case.

“That’s absolutely false," Nicholas Burns, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, told ‘The Capital´ when asked about such an understanding in its civilian nuclear deal agreement with India.

“We preserved intact the right under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 that if India or any other country conducts a nuclear test, the president will have the right to ask for return of the nuclear fuel or nuclear technologies transferred by American firms," he said.

He further said that the US has carefully considered the right of reprocessing and that a subsequent agreement between Washington and New Delhi is subject to review by Congress.

“We agreed to do so (grant reprocessing rights) finally because the Indians agreed to construct a state-of-the-art processing facility and all the foreign fuel shipped into India will go through that plant to be reprocessed. It will be fully safeguarded by the IAEA," he said.

“Also the US law states that while we can promise reprocessing consent rights, we have to negotiate a subsequent agreement. We will do that and Congress will have the right to review that agreement" he added.

The senior State Department official who was a top negotiator in the so-called 123 Agreement maintained that the accord reached with India is a “technical" one and hence does not deal with such issues as Iran.

But apart from that, we have been very actively involved in counselling the Indian government to remain with the rest of the international community in arguing to the Iranians that they should not become a nuclear weapons power,“ Burns said.

On momentum in Congress about a vote on the Indian deal this Fall, Burns reiterated that the vote is dependant on other steps that would have to be fulfilled.

“We hope so. Two things have to happen before it goes back for a final vote in Congress. First, India has to conclude a safeguards agreement with the IAEA, which I expect will happen in the next thirty to thirty-five days.

Secondly, the Indians will need to convince the nuclear suppliers group to give the same kind of international treatment in terms of civil nuclear trade to India that the US would have just given bilaterally."

While observing that the deal would bring India into the non-proliferation parameters, Burns said it would also mean lesser pollution of environment by the Asian giant.

“From an environmental standpoint, India is one of the largest carbon emitters in the world. Right now, nuclear energy is only 3 per cent of its energy source. We think within a generation that could go to 25 per cent if you open up trade and nuclear fuel and nuclear technology. So from an environmental, energy, and nonproliferation point of view, for us this is the right thing to do" he added.