Diplomatic Correspondent

"There's a commitment to place all future civilian reactors under safeguards in perpetuity" "That's a very important commitment because they intend to build very large reactors for power needs over the coming years."

NEW DELHI: U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher has said that as India builds larger nuclear power reactors over the years close to 90 per cent of its reactors would come under safeguards.

In a roundtable with Indian and Pakistani journalists on March 9 in Washington, Mr. Boucher said, "If you look at their [Indian] separation plan, there's a very clear commitment to place all future civilian thermal reactors and all future civilian fast-breeder reactors under safeguards in perpetuity.

"That's a very important commitment because as we understand India's programme, they intend to build quite a few very large reactors for power needs over the coming years. They plan to build fast-breeders on the civilian side."

"And so I think the way we calculate it is you go from a situation where right now I think 19 per cent of the reactors are under safeguards ... as soon as the separation plan is implemented, and you know, they have to work it out with the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] and things, but that will lead to 65 per cent being under safeguards. And over time that's going to rise to 90 per cent, almost 90 per cent," a transcript of Mr. Boucher's remarks said.

Military facilities

Asked if with the development of military facilities by India wouldn't the percentage come down, the U.S. official stated, "Yeah, it would if that happened but I don't think that's the expectation. I mean, India is going to have to inform you about what their plans might or might not be for the military side ... "

"I think we got [an] assurance that the civilian side will be you know, that all future civilian reactors, whether thermal or fast-breeder, are going to be under safeguards and that leads to these kind of expected plans," he said.

On whether there was any restriction on India building military nuclear reactors, Mr. Boucher said, "This [civilian nuclear accord] was not an agreement about the military side. This was an agreement to provide a clearly demarcated and permanently safeguarded sector, nuclear sector, in India where we would cooperate in helping India meet its development needs and to define clearly what would be in the civilian side and to make sure that all those would be under safeguards."