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Nuke scientists welcome PM's assurances

They also welcomed his invitation to scientists for further discussion on nuclear deal issue on August 26 in New Delhi.

india Updated: Aug 17, 2006 23:06 IST

Top nuclear scientists on Thursday welcomed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's detailed assurances on concerns raised by them about the Indo-US nuclear deal.

They also welcomed his invitation to scientists for further discussion on the issue on August 26 in New Delhi.

MR Srinivasan, former Atomic Energy Commission chairman and a current member of the body, said from Ooty, "We are looking forward to the meeting to discuss the issues in detail and mechanisms to protect India's interests."

Unless India makes the US explicitly accept the position that the Prime Minister adopted on Thursday and unless the bilateral agreement is clearly reflected in black and white, there will be no guarantee that what is deemed non-binding on India in today's legislation will not be converted in future to binding clauses by future administrations in the US, Srinivasan said.

On the perpetuity clause, he said, "We will discuss with the Prime Minister in detail to make sure that research and development and fast breeder technologies are not placed under safeguards, and also on the future choice on voluntary safeguards."

Former AEC chairman PK Iyengar said, "The Prime Minister has made so many commitments to answer the scientists as well as opposition's concerns and at the same time he has not left out his commitment related to the American decision."

On the separation plan for nuclear facilities after Thursday's assurances, Iyengar said, "There should be a re-discussion on the separation plan more logically, and so that it could be easily negotiated with the International Atomic Energy Agency."

Iyengar said, "The re-discussion on the separation plan will help India as well as the IAEA when we go for negotiations on India-specific safeguards."

"We can advise him on these issues and we can also explain that we can do the separation without affecting our freedom in research and development," he said.

Iyengar said India has to wait and watch how the US administration take the "sense of the House" that was observed on Thursday.

Placid Rodruigues, former director of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), said from Delhi, "I welcome the Prime Minister's categorical statement and assurances but we have to seriously discuss the separation plans in detail again."

India should be in a better position to re-negotiate the deal as "we are far ahead of the US and Japan in fast breeder reactor and reprocessing technology."

In fact, the US may need India's help in human resource development on nuclear technology. "Our bargaining power has to be fully understood by the Prime Minsiter and we will explain in detail to him in the August 26 meeting," Rodruigues said.

He also said the Prime minister is yet to satisfy the House on how he intended to convert the unsafeguarded experimental breeder programme to have some form of safeguards on all commercial fast breeder reactors after 2014.

The scientists said since the Prime Minister has assured that India will be treated at par with nuclear weapon nations as a de facto nuclear weapon state, it would follow that the nature of safeguards to be negotiated for Indian reactors would be voluntary rather than any that may be applicable to a non-nuclear weapon country.

Based on Thursday's assurances, the safeguards will not be applicable to a non-nuclear weapon country since they apply only on fuel, nuclear material and derivatives, and "imported reactors could be the only ones subjected to perpetuity safeguards", they said.

The scientists said they were eagerly waiting to make their contributions on August 26 and any further meetings to safeguard the country's interests.

First Published: Aug 17, 2006 23:06 IST