Buy a French reactor and get lifetime fuel: Envoy

September 18th, 2008 - 8:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Sept 18 (IANS) With competition hotting up for India’s $100 billion nuclear pie, French Ambassador Jeremy Bonnafonte Thursday assured New Delhi fuel supplies for the full life of a nuclear reactor it buys from his country. The French envoy, however, clarified that the sale of enrichment and reprocessing technologies was not covered by the Indo-French Nuclear Framework Agreement which is awaiting signature. The two countries may have to sign another agreement for this purpose, he added.

France is open to such sales but they will depend upon any worldwide consensus the NSG reaches on the issue, he said.

If India buys a reactor from France India can obtain nuclear fuel for the full life of such a reactor, that is, 40 or 50 years, Bonnafonte told Karan Thapar in an interview to be broadcast on India Tonight programme of CNBC-TV18.

The categorical assurance by France seeks to put fuel supply anxieties in India at rest and may set a precedent for companies from other countries who will be doing nuclear business with India in the days to come.

The envoy also stressed that the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group has given India a clean waiver which placed neither any restriction on fuel supplies to India not any curbs on its right to build strategic reserves.

The envoy confirmed that the India-France civil nuclear agreement was ready to be signed, but no decision has been made on whether it will be inked during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Paris Sept 30. The date of signing will be decided by the two heads of government, he added.

“Only small procedural matters remain. But these will not be obstacles to signing,” he said. Hinting at hesitancy on India’s part, Bonnafonte underlined that France was keen to sign the nuclear pact as soon as possible.

The envoy confirmed that France will grant India reprocessing rights provided New Delhi fulfils the IAEA safeguards conditions and sets up a facility for this purpose.

Making a pitch for a slice of India’s $100 billion nuclear business at stake, he said France was keen to sell the new generation Areva reactor, which is said to be the most advanced in the world.

Insisting that the NSG has given a clean waiver to India, the envoy rejected reports about an informal secret NSG understanding among members of the cartel to ban the sale of enrichment and reprocessing technologies.

He also repudiated a report by Nucleonics Week that the NSG only granted a waiver after the US made it clear it would terminate all nuclear commerce with India in the event of New Delhi conducting a test. He says no such assurance was given or needed.

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