T.S. Subramanian

123 nuclear agreement with the U.S. clearly spells out this, says Kakodkar

CHENNAI: “It will be the same. Whether it is France, Russia or the U.S., we will have upfront consent and rights to reprocess the spent fuel [from the imported reactors] here in India under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards,” asserted Anil Kakodkar, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), on Sunday.

He told journalists at Kalpakkam, about 60 km from Chennai, “before we start a reactor, we should have upfront consent and rights for reprocessing from all vendors.”

Asked whether the U.S. had agreed to allow India to reprocess the spent fuel from the U.S. reactors that would be built in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat just as Russia and France had done, Dr. Kakodkar said the 123 nuclear agreement between India and the U.S. “clearly spells out the upfront consent and rights.”

In addition to that, arrangements and procedures should be negotiated and established for reprocessing the spent fuel. The AEC Chairman said: “We are doing exactly that. It will happen in a much earlier time-frame. I have said that we will have arrangements and procedures done and that it would make the reprocessing consent and rights complete. Only then, we will start the process of negotiating or completing the contract [to buy reactors from other countries].”

Asked whether there were plans to upgrade the Rare Materials Project (RMP) at Ratnahalli near Mysore (where uranium is enriched) into an industrial scale plant, Dr. Kakodkar said it had to be done but the production of enriched uranium now from the RMP would meet the requirements of India’s nuclear-powered submarine, INS Arihant.

To cater for the enriched uranium requirements of a commercial nuclear power station, huge gaskets in the enrichment plant were required.

India had the capability to build large-sized enrichment plants but the decision to build them had to be taken on commercial considerations. Since the availability of natural uranium in India was low, it did not make sense to enrich it for power generation because a Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) produced more energy from the same natural uranium. So India used natural uranium as fuel for its PHWRs.

Life-time supply

For the Light Water Reactors (LWRs) that India would be importing, it had insisted on the condition that the imported LWRs should get a life-time supply of enriched uranium.

“So these reactors will be fuelled by imported uranium. However, depending on commercial considerations, we will build a [large-sized enrichment] plant at an appropriate time. At the moment, there is no such decision,” Dr. Kakodkar said.