India wants facility-specific safeguards and perpetual fuel supply assurances built into the safeguards agreement it works out with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at Vienna before it agrees to place its civilian nuclear reactors under perpetual safeguards.
Officials are working on a variation of the kind of safeguards India already has in six of its nuclear power reactors to ensure India’s strategic programme is kept completely out of the loop, senior government sources told HT. Officials from the Department of Atomic Energy and the External Affairs Ministry’s Disarmament division will be involved in technical discussions with the IAEA secretariat once they get the political nod, after the October 5 meeting between the UPA and Left allies.
India, which has a recognized nuclear weapons programme, already has facility-specific safeguards in place for its safeguarded reactors at Tarapur, Kudankulam and Rawatbhatta, built respectively with US, Russian and Canadian assistance.
<b1>Facility-specific safeguards are confined to the fuel and equipment in safeguarded reactors and are different from full scope safeguards on all nuclear facilities in countries that have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), like Iran.
India’s Ambassador to Austria Sheel Kant Sharma, whose tenure in Vienna has been extended until the safeguards agreement with the IAEA is worked out, and officials including Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar informally held discussions at the just concluded IAEA Board of Governors meeting to smoothen the process.
Only when the safeguards agreement is ready would the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) be able to change its guidelines and allow an India-specific waiver to allow the country to access and resume civilian nuclear trade. Kakodkar said India, not being a signatory to the NPT, expects the US to work out an unconditional exemption for India from the NSG.
"India has made its position very clear that it expects clean, unconditional exemption after recognising it as a unique country," Kakodkar told reporters in Vienna. "Everyone in the nuclear community wants this to be carried out--sooner the better," he said.
Even if the safeguards agreement with the IAEA and the NSG waiver come through as scheduled, by the year end, the earliest by which the US Congress could vote on the 123 Agreement is May or June, officials said.
Once through, “the deal would end a host of technology-denial regimes, including a long negative ‘trigger list’ of ‘dual use’ items and open up Indian industry, (not just nuclear energy) to a quantum leap in technology upgradation it requires to sustain a high growth rate,” a senior government official told HT.