India wary as US, Australia seek to track their nuclear fuel
Foreign suppliers like US and Australia have created another major glitch into country’s ambitious civil nuclear programme: insisting on New Delhi reporting to them with tracking information on fuel cycle of the materials sourced from them.
This also means these supplier countries want to get access to dedicated facilities for reprocessing of spent fuel — something New Delhi is strongly opposed to.
India’s position is that since reactors will be under the safeguards of International Atomic Energy Agency and India has moved in for additional safeguards, reporting to individual countries cannot be an option, senior government sources dealing with the issue told HT. However, sorting this issue is necessary as India has completed process for joining groupings like nuclear suppliers group (NSG). Any common understanding among countries, including US, Canada and Australia, could spell for trouble in getting the issue settled.
Sources also concede that India has to use the “buyers’ clout” and resist unreasonable demands when “options are available” as India has an “impeccable nonproliferation record.”
“IAEA has a stringent mechanism in place that keeps track of the movement of nuclear materials in overseas facilities, verify inventories and they do regular inspections. It is not a possible proposition to keep a track on fuel from each country separately,” said an official.
These issues have come in the way of kick-starting the administrative arrangements for the nuclear deal with both Australia and the US. There is a sense of urgency to conclude the pact with US, which is being negotiated for two years now ahead of President Obama’s visit here next month.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has talked about nuclear deal with India giving Australia one of the most “safe and secure nuclear programmes in the world.”
Since India not a signatory to the nuclear proliferation treaty (NPT), suppliers have been raising questions the fuel cycle-process, such as reprocessing, higher enrichment, research and development or the production of tritium — which has weapon-making uses.