The US and India will hold the second round of talks on reprocessing spent nuclear fuel in Vienna this week, with officials hoping to complete the negotiations much before the one year time limit under the historic Indo-US civilian nuclear deal.
The first round of talks were held in Vienna in July this year during which, informed sources told PTI, both India and the US “surprised” each other by coming out with draft proposals which could advance the completion of negotiations by several months.
Officials hope to complete the negotiations much before the one year time limit under the 123 Agreement that was signed on October 8 last year.
The American delegation for talks in Vienna this week is being led by Richard Stratford, Director of the Office of Nuclear Energy Affairs in the State Department and Washington’s points man for nuclear negotiations with India.
If everything goes well, the negotiations could even be ready to be announced during the state visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the United States in late November, sources said.
If that happens, it would be one of the fastest negotiations of this nature, they said.
India has been seeking speedy negotiations of reprocessing arrangements.
“We are looking at the speedy negotiations of reprocessing arrangements to facilitate this process,” Indian Ambassador to the US Meera Shankar said in May this year.
“Both sides have agreed to commence this process and have identified their nodal points. So we expect to pursue this very expeditiously,” Shankar had then said.
The 123 Agreement on bilateral nuclear cooperation gives New Delhi prior consent to reprocess.
However, it stipulates that this right would come into effect only when India establishes a new national facility dedicated to reprocessing safeguarded nuclear material under the safeguards of International Atomic Energy Agency and reaches an agreement with the US on “arrangements and procedures under which such reprocessing... will take place in this new facility“.
On February 3 this year, the then Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon, wrote to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs William Burns, invoking the provisions of the 123 Agreement with a formal request to negotiate the “arrangements and procedures” under which American spent fuel would be reprocessed in India.
The Department of Atomic Energy also sent a similar formal request to Richard Stratford. The United States acknowledged the request.