India, U.S. discuss n-safety issues

NEW DELHI MARCH 29. India and the United States have begun talks on the safety of nuclear power plants, but are still far away from exchanging related equipment.

Highly-placed Government sources here pointed out that the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Chairman, Anil Kakodkar, visited Washington last month to discuss these issues with the Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Richard Mesarve.

Discussions revolved around emergency procedures, fire safety issues and safety of ageing plants. Analysts here point out that the U.S. signalled to India that it was inclined to advise authorities here on running nuclear power plants safely. It may, however, still not be ready for transferring technology or equipment to India.

Nevertheless, the two sides are taking a fresh look at collaborative nuclear research. Efforts are underway for a tie-up between a key Indian research institution and the Brookhaven Laboratories of the U.S. India and the U.S. are looking at the possibility of joint forays in the nuclear power sector within the framework of the existing U.S. disposition on climate change. The U.S. President, George Bush, has recently stated that nuclear power production needed to be encouraged as it was a source of clean energy.

The U.S., sources pointed out, had imposed a nuclear blockade on India after the 1974 nuclear tests. Fearing spread of nuclear weapons, international rules on the transfer of nuclear technology were tightened further in the 1990s with the formation of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). New Delhi, in future talks, might impress upon Washington the need to introduce greater flexibility in the NSG rules. India, in the meanwhile, has signed an agreement with Russia for two atomic power reactors of 1000 MWs each that would be established at Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu.

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