IAEA pact unveiled, strong on fuel guarantees (Second Lead)July 10th, 2008 - 5:34 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, July 10 (IANS) The government Thursday unveiled the draft of the India-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA that meets three of its key concerns: uninterrupted fuel supply for its reactors, strategic fuel reserve, and right to take corrective steps if fuel supply is disrupted. The safeguards text, finalised early this year after several rounds of negotiations between Indian officials and the IAEA secretariat, provides for “reliable, uninterrupted and continuous access” to the international fuel market after New Delhi puts its identified civilian facilities under permanent safeguards.
The agreement, which recognizes India’s unique status as de facto nuclear weapon power, also meets its key demand in so far as it allows New Delhi the right to take “take corrective measures to ensure uninterrupted operation of its civilian nuclear reactors in the event of disruption of fuel supplies”.
The conclusion of the IAEA pact will pave the way for a consideration by the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to allow the resumption of global civil nuclear commerce with India. The IAEA board is expected to meet in Vienna July 28 to decide on ratification of the India-specific safeguards pact.
The agreement also “supports an Indian effort to develop a strategic reserve of nuclear fuel to guard against any disruption of supply over a lifetime of India’s reactors”.
This clause could come in handy for India if it decides to conduct a nuclear test leading to suspension of global civil nuclear cooperation as it gives New Delhi freedom to take “corrective action”.
The safeguards pact leaves India’s military facilities out of its purview, but seeks an undertaking from India not to divert reactors and fuel bought from the international market for military use.
Although the IAEA is not a guarantor of fuel supply, the text of this agreement has broken new ground by recognising the unique nature of India’s nuclear programme that require a separation of civilian and military facilities and provides assurance for “reliable, uninterrupted and continuous access to fuel supplies from companies in several nations”.
The agreement, the text notes, provides assurance against any withdrawal of the safeguarded nuclear material from civilian use by India.
The draft text envisages India placing 14 of its civilian nuclear reactors in phases in return for global civil nuclear cooperation.
India’s civilian and military nuclear facilities will be separated in accordance with the March 2, 2006 separation plan agreed between New Delhi and Washington.
According to the text, India has stated “its willingness to file with the agency a declaration regarding its civilian nuclear facilities and to place volunatarily its civilian nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards”.
The government made the contentious text public after giving a green signal to the IAEA to submit it to the agency’s 35-member board in Vienna for ratification Wednesday night, and after some US websites put it up earlier.
The government decision to unveil the text surprised many. Only two days ago it had insisted that the text couldn’t be shared with its Communist allies because it was a privileged document between the Indian government and the IAEA secretariat.
The government Thursday also announced that it would approach the IAEA for ratification of the pact only after it wins a trust vote in parliament.
New Delhi’s decision to approach the UN nuclear watchdog came hours after the meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George W. Bush on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Japan. The IAEA board will meet July 28 and decide on the ratification of the safeguards agreement.
The draft text makes it clear that the safeguards will become operational only after “the conclusion of international cooperation arrangements creating necessary conditions for India to obtain access to the international fuel market, including reliable, uninterrupted and continuous access to fuel supplies from companies in several nations”.
According to the draft, India has said that none of the items produced in the safeguarded facilities will be used for manufacturing any nuclear weapon or to further any military purpose.
The text makes it clear that India’s decision to place its civilian nuclear facilities under safeguards will not detract from its commitment to “the full development of its national three-stage programme”.
The safeguards text recognises India as “a state with advanced nuclear technology”, which has “a sovereign and inalienable right to carry out nuclear research and development activities for the welfare of its people and other peaceful purposes”.
The safeguards text clarifies that India is entering into this agreement with the IAEA and its member states with “the objective of the full development and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes on a stable, reliable and predictable basis”.
The proposed pact also assures India that in the course of implementing the safeguards agreement, it would “protect commercial, technological and industrial secrets as well as other confidential information coming to its knowledge”.