India and the United States signed a landmark deal in October 2008, which allows India access to US civil nuclear fuel and technology. What is it that makes this deal so significant? How does India stand to gain from it ? Here are some answers to these questions :
This is a deal between India and the United States for civil nuclear cooperation. Under this agreement, the United States can sell civilian nuclear fuel and technology to India. India in turn, has to separate its civil and military nuclear facilities and place all its civil nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) inspection. The accord took three years to be finalized, during which it went through a series of complex stages that included amendment of U.S. domestic law, formulation of a civil-military nuclear separation plan in India, an India-IAEA safeguards (inspections) agreement and the grant of an exemption for India by the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG).
Under Section 123 of its Atomic Energy Act, the United States can enter into civilian nuclear trade only with those countries that have signed the NPT and CTBT. India has signed neither treaty. Further, after its first nuclear test in 1974, the United States had placed a ban on the supply of nuclear fuel and technology to India. In order to sign the present deal, the section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act needed to be amended. The Hyde Act 2006, a domestic Act of the United States, was accordingly brought in to amend this Section and provide a legal framework for a 123 Agreement with India. With this agreement India becomes the only non-NPT/CTBT signatory to have signed the 123 Agreement with the United States.
Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a 45 nation body concerned with reducing nuclear proliferation by controlling trade in nuclear fuel and technology. Their policies had so far kept India out of bounds of international nuclear trade as it has not signed the NPT and CTBT. Some countries in the NSG had misgivings about giving India the unprecedented waiver of carrying on international civil nuclear trade even without signing the NPT, but the approval finally came through keeping in view India's strong non-proliferation records, and its voluntary declaration of "no first use" of nuclear weapons.
Indo-US Civil nuclear deal has paved the way for the growth of the nuclear power sector in India, which has so far been plagued by shortages of nuclear fuel. India has limited reserves of Uranium, which is the crucial fuel needed at the present stage of our nuclear power programme. Due to the shortage of uranium, India's nuclear power generation is only about 1800 Mw against an installed capacity of 4120 Mw. With the present agreement, which is valid for 40 years and extendable by another 10 years, India hopes to address this fuel shortage. Under this agreement the US is committed to ensure uninterrupted fuel supply to safeguard Indian reactors and create strategic fuel reserves for them, and also work with other NSG countries to ensure supply of nuclear fuel to India. The ambit of the deal includes research, development, design, construction, operation, maintenance and use of nuclear reactors, reactor experiments and decommissioning. To ensure smoothness, the agreement provides for elaborate consultations between the two parties in the event of either side wanting to terminate the deal before its normal time.
Further, the agreement also lays down the clause of "non-interference " in India's strategic programme. Thus, the Indian nuclear power programme stands to get a much needed push without any threat to its strategic programme.
As part of the bargain India has agreed for separation of its nuclear facilities, placing the civilian facilities under IAEA safeguards in perpetuity. The safeguard is aimed at ensuring that the nuclear material or technology brought in for civilian purposes is not diverted for military use. Out of its 22 operating/under construction nuclear facilities, India will place 14 under IAEA safeguard.
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