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Join new N-order: US to India

US officials made an extended briefing on the new Global Nuclear Energy Partnership in Delhi.

india Updated: Feb 09, 2006 17:14 IST

Nuclear energy’s GenNext has been put on offer before India. US officials made an extended briefing on the new Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) in New Delhi at the second meeting of the Indo-US Energy Dialogue steering committee on Wednesday.

Officials from both countries say the Bush administration plans to formally invite India as soon as the current Indo-US nuclear deal is signed. The GNEP envisages a new worldwide nuclear system in which a core of supplier nations will provide nuclear fuel and technology to a set of user nations. The partnership has received strong endorsement from Russia and other nuclear nations like Japan and China.

The GNEP supplier nations will recycle the world’s large stockpiles of nuclear waste — including fissile material from warheads — using a new generation of nuclear breeder reactors. The user nations will be provided modern reactors and guaranteed nuclear fuel.

Diplomats involved in the negotiations say US undersecretary of Energy David Garman pointed out that India’s present nuclear programme was focused on technologies “complementary” to those of a supplier nation.

Nuclear experts in New Delhi and Washington argue that the GNEP amounts to a new nuclear order, one that will over time come to supplant the present one based on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The Bush administration would like India to take a seat at this nuclear high table, but it can only give India a reservation if New Delhi fulfils the basic prerequisite of separating its military and civilian nuclear programmes.

Diplomatic sources say the possibilities for India lie not only in becoming a GNEP supplier, but also in becoming a nuclear technology giant. "There is no reason India cannot develop a comparative advantage in nuclear technology in the same way it has one in biosciences and software," said an US official.

The current paranoia in the Department of Atomic Energy that the Indo-US nuclear deal will kill the breeder reactor programme is being seen as misplaced. Quite the opposite, say sources, a new generation of breeder reactor technology is a necessity for a country that wants to be a core GNEP member.

At the time that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W Bush signed the July 18 nuclear agreement last year, GNEP had not been finalised. Diplomatic sources say GNEP outlines what a post-NPT nuclear order will be like and how India can fit into it. “The GNEP has India written all over it,” said one official.

NPT core members must have had a nuclear test before 1967.

First Published: Feb 09, 2006 17:14 IST