Remains silent on nuclear deal, country-specific safeguards agreement

Vienna: Refraining from making any mention of the India-U.S. nuclear deal at the IAEA conference, Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar on Wednesday said India was looking forward to “sustainable” international civil nuclear cooperation “free from interruptions.”

Taking note of political sensitivities back home, Dr. Kakodkar, in his address to the 51st General Conference of the IAEA, also made no reference to the India-specific safeguards agreement with the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

The safeguards agreement and change in Nuclear Suppliers Group guidelines are mandatory to operationalising the nuclear deal.

“We are looking forward to the possibility of opening up of international civil nuclear cooperation,” he told the 144-nation organisation.

“We expect such cooperation to be sustainable, free from interruptions and consistent with our national policy of closed fuel cycle.”

After the bitter experience at Tarapur, when the U.S. stopped nuclear supplies in the wake of the 1974 nuclear tests carried out by India, New Delhi has sought to factor in all its concerns and secure guarantees for uninterrupted fuel supplies for its reactors.

Dr. Kakodkar said global nuclear renaissance has become a “necessity” and appears to be well on the cards. However, it rests today on a “very fragile foundation.”

He spoke of the need to build robust inclusive partnerships on an “objective, reliable and predictable basis with a holistic mutual understanding and trust.”

“We are all justifiably concerned about the risks related to safety, environment and proliferation arising out of irresponsible behaviour of state and non-state actors,” Dr. Kakodkar said.

However, there is a need to be even more concerned about the security risk to which the future generation would be exposed as a result of the direct disposal of spent fuel leading to plutonium mines when a large part of radioactivity decays, he said.

Dr. Kakodkar said reactor imports were an additionality to the ongoing indigenous nuclear programme to significantly augment nuclear power generation capacity in the near term.

U.S. to brief NSG

The 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), whose endorsement is crucial to operationalising the India-United States nuclear deal, will be briefed about the deal by the U.S. here on Thursday.

The U.S., which is pushing hard to implement the deal, is expected to explain the importance of change of NSG guidelines to allow international nuclear trade with India.

India has to reach a safeguards agreement with the IAEA soon and secure changes in NSG laws to get the deal going.

Facing questions from Indian reporters here, Dr. Kakodkar emphasised that it was the responsibility of the U.S. to get NSG exemption for India. Dr. Kakodkar had underpinned the importance of operationalising the deal expeditiously. “It is in everybody’s interest to conclude the nuclear deal sooner than later.” — PTI