Russian nuclear agency chief confident that Koodankulam project will be back on track
NEW DELHI: Russia favours the lifting of curbs on India at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), according to information made available here.
Following a meeting with Atomic Energy Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar in Vienna, head of Russia’s Federal Agency for Nuclear Power Sergei Kiriyenko said: “Our nuclear cooperation with India is positive, and we urge a decision to lift the NSG sanctions against India.”
Now that India had agreed to sign a safeguards pact with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Russia would support India’s bid to have the NSG’s restrictions lifted. “Bearing this in mind, we consider that the curbs imposed by the NSG against India can be lifted,” Mr. Kiriyenko said.
India is barred from participating in global commerce on nuclear technology till it signs a country-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA. After that, the 45-nation NSG will have to take a unanimous view on lifting the curbs. The only exception is the Koodankulam nuclear power plant, being built with Russia’s help. Both countries insist that the agreement for the same was signed before the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty came into force.
While acknowledging delays in the Koodankulam plant construction by Atomstroiexport, Mr. Kiriyenko said the reason was that the government lost the controlling stake in the company. Now that the government had bought back the controlling stake, he was confident that the project would be back on track.
The nuclear scientific community here is looking with interest a Russian initiative to set up a guaranteed reserve of low-enriched uranium in eastern Siberia under the IAEA’s supervision. It would be supplied to countries that have been denied access to nuclear fuel.
Although Russia’s intention is to attract countries to its fold to beat back potential competition from other supplier nations such as South Africa and China that are planning to enter the field of low-enriched uranium, Indian scientists believe that a membership of this initiative would help avoid disruption in nuclear fuel supply.
However, the former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, K. Gopalakrishnan, said access to the proposed low-enriched uranium was possible only if India signed a pact with IAEA. “Even then, it would not get access to the fuel if it violated the IAEA norms. This will be useful only if there is disruption of supply of material from another source due to unforeseen reasons.”