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On the eve of his visit to Delhi, President Bush has revealed the true intent behind the U.S. offer of civil nuclear cooperation with India: as a “recipient” country, the Indians should rely on imported nuclear fuel and not aspire to reprocess spent nuclear fuel generated by power reactors on Indian soil.
The irony is that this kick in the pants — part of Dubya’s Asia Society speech in Washington on February 22 — was served to India live by Doordarshan, the national television channel that normally reserves live telecasts for speeches delivered by the Indian President and Prime Minister.
24 February 2006
Bush plan demotes India
|Says `no’ to nuclear reprocessing|
NEW DELHI: On the eve of his visit to South Asia, United States President George W. Bush has demoted India from the ranks of “leading countries with advanced nuclear technology” — the phrase used in the July 18, 2005 India-U.S. agreement — to those who merely have a “developing nuclear energy programme.”
This unilateral reclassification is not a minor issue. For, only countries that have “advanced civilian nuclear energy programmes” will have the right to reprocess spent nuclear fuel under Mr. Bush’s proposed `Global Nuclear Energy Partnership,’ of which the India-U.S. deal is “an integral part.”
In his speech to the Asia Society in Washington on Wednesday, India was named a country that would have to hand over its spent nuclear fuel to a handful of “supplier nations” for reprocessing, forgoing, in the bargain, its right to reprocess the waste generated from its civilian nuclear programme.
“Under this partnership,” Mr. Bush said, “America will work with nations that have advanced civilian nuclear energy programmes such as Great Britain, France, Japan and Russia to share nuclear fuel with nations like India that are developing civilian nuclear energy programs.”
The supplier nations would then collect the spent nuclear fuel and invest in new methods to reprocess that fuel “so that it can be used for advanced new reactors.” This strategy “will allow countries like India to produce more electricity from nuclear power … it will decrease the amount of nuclear waste that needs to be stored and reduce the risks of proliferation.”
There is an irony here for New Delhi, which is backing the U.S. in its attempts to get Iran to forgo its right to enrich uranium or reprocess plutonium: Mr Bush is saying that in his plans India, too, must rely on imported fuel and not be involved in reprocessing.
Mr. Bush’s proposal has upset Indian nuclear scientists, who see it as an attempt to undermine India’s civilian programme, including the fast breeder and the use of thorium, which crucially depend on reprocessing of spent fuel.
“Even though India set up its first reprocessing plant in Trombay in 1965, Bush has relegated us to the status of a recipient country,” says M.R. Srinivasan, member, Atomic Energy Commission. “This is a major breach of the basis of the July 18 agreement. India cannot be lumped together with countries which are said to be developing their nuclear programmes, with countries which do not have enrichment and reprocessing facilities.”
Dr. Srinivasan said any attempt to pursue this proposal would “not only negate any chance of nuclear rapprochement between India and the U.S. but would raise new obstacles as well.”
Other scientists said that even the Pellaud Committee — set up by the International Atomic Energy Agency last year to examine multinational nuclear facilities — noted that India was one of those countries which had achieved complete mastery over the front and back ends of the nuclear fuel cycle.
“I don’t know who has advised Mr. Bush on this matter,” said Dr. Srinivasan. “This proposal appears to be the handiwork of the old guard of non-proliferationists in the American establishment.”
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