India is on the verge of entering an elite club. Here’s what lies ahead:
The Indo-US 123 Agreement: This agreement solves the enriched uranium shortage that has constrained India’s nuclear power programme for decades, pushing our production down to a lowly 27th position among the 30 countries using nuclear power. It also preserves India’s right to reprocess the spent fuel from civilian reactors producing commercial power.
as a ‘changed security environment’) in which India conducts a nuclear test
Role of the International Atomic Energy Agency: Established in 1957, the IAEA seeks to inhibit the use of nuclear energy for military purposes. The US will join India in negotiating with the IAEA an India-specific fuel supply agreement, and help India develop strategic reserves to guard against any disruptions over the lifetime of India's reactors.
US policy in the rest of the world: US policy on nuclear issues is governed by the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. Section 123 of this act is titled ‘Cooperation with other Nations’ and establishes 123 Agreements as the framework for nuclear cooperation with countries ranging from Australia to the Ukraine.
Japan’s 123 agreement requires that before the return of nuclear materials, the parties shall carefully consider the economic effects of such actions. The Indian agreement similarly envisages that before the right of return is enforced, the two countries will ‘undertake consultations’ giving ‘special consideration to the importance of uninterrupted operation of nuclear reactors’ in India. If the consultations fail, the US will pay India a ‘fair market value’ compensation for the materials to be returned.
China has no right of return clause for materials and equipment transferred under the aegis of its 123 agreement with the US. This return clause applies only to NNWSs such as India. On the flip side, China has neither a fuel supply arrangement nor reprocessing rights over spent fuel. Unlike India, it has also accepted bilateral inspections from both the US and Australia.