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United States Supports India's Civil Nuclear Pact

U.S. Supports India's Civil Nuclear Pact; IAEA Board To Decide On Safeguards Agreement August 1, 2008

Washington -- India is facing increasing demand for new energy sources to bolster its expanding economy and meet the needs of a population that exceeds 1.1 billion people.

A proposed U.S.-India civil nuclear accord could make ample energy resources a more likely possibility with final approval by early fall this year.

The nuclear accord would bring India into the nuclear nonproliferation mainstream, help India meet its growing energy needs while protecting the environment, and deepen the strategic partnership between many nations and India, says Ambassador Gregory Schulte, the U.S. permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The IAEA Board of Governors will meet August 1 in Vienna to consider a draft safeguards agreement with India for its civilian nuclear energy development program. Approval of the safeguards agreement as well as approval of a separate agreement with the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which controls the trade of nuclear materials, is necessary before the U.S. Congress will give final approval to the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Initiative, Schulte said July 24 at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

The U.S.-India nuclear initiative, known as a 123 Agreement, can be acted on by the Congress only after India secures separate agreements with the IAEA and the NSG. The United States and India completed negotiations on the agreement in 2007.

The nuclear accord would require India to open its civilian reactors to international inspections by the IAEA and give India access to the world market for nuclear fuel and technology, which it has been blocked from for more than 30 years. The three-step approval process is necessary because India has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"Helping India generate electricity for growth and development, while acknowledging its commitments on safeguards and nonproliferation, is part of transforming global relations with this large and vibrant democracy," Schulte said. "The United States, the European Union and other like-minded countries aim to develop an entirely new relationship with India, a relationship founded on cooperation rather than denial."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says this is a landmark deal that is good for the United States and India, and for global efforts to reduce the spread of nuclear technology and greenhouse gas emissions that threaten the global environment.

"It's certainly our hope that we can get through all the processes and get this done in the Congress, and we are going to work very expeditiously toward that goal," Rice said July 24 while en route to Australia from an Asian security conference in Singapore.

"India … has a tremendously growing demand for energy. It is a country that, if it tries to meet that demand through carbon-based sources for energy, is going to contribute dramatically to the continued growth of greenhouse gas emissions," Rice said. "So it's important for India to find alternative sources."

India imports 75 percent of its oil. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who recently survived a confidence vote in parliament, has argued that India needs a stronger investment in nuclear energy generation.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, who was traveling with Rice, said his government would give the India initiative every consideration. Australia, which holds 40 percent of the world's known uranium reserves, is a key member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

"We will give very careful consideration to the strategic importance of the agreement, both to India and to the United States. And we're also looking at the arrangement with a positive and constructive frame of mind," Smith said. "We, of course, want to look very carefully at the detail and consider that very carefully in the NSG."

IAEA Safeguards Agreement

Schulte says the safeguards agreement has been carefully negotiated by the IAEA Secretariat, which has recommended it for approval. "It deserves the [IAEA] board's full endorsement," he said.

India has four operating nuclear power reactors under IAEA safeguards today, Schulte said. Under the U.S.-India accord, India has committed to separate its military and civilian activities and submit its entire civil program to international inspection.

"Under this plan, India will place under voluntary safeguards a majority of its existing and planned nuclear power reactors (14 of 22) and all its future civil reactors," he said. "Within a generation, it is estimated that nearly 90 percent of India's reactors will be under IAEA safeguards."

If the IAEA board approves this safeguards agreement, Schulte said, the United States will work with the Nuclear Suppliers Group to reach consensus on an India-specific exception that would allow members to engage in civil nuclear cooperation with India. Normally, the NSG will not work with a country that has not signed the nonproliferation treaty.

-- Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr., Staff Writer


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