[ RadSafe ] U.S. Inks Nuclear Reprocessing Deal With India

Clayton J Bradt CJB01 at health.state.ny.us
Mon Aug 2 14:51:32 CDT 2010

U.S. Inks Nuclear Reprocessing Deal With India

Monday, Aug. 2, 2010
India and the United States on Friday inked a deal that would permit the 
nuclear-armed South Asian nation to reprocess used U.S.-supplied nuclear 
fuel as part of a broader bilateral trade cooperation agreement, Agence 
France-Presse reported (see GSN, June 2).

The latest agreement demonstrates the Obama administration's "strong 
commitment to building successfully on the landmark U.S.-India Civil 
Nuclear Cooperation Initiative and is a prerequisite for U.S. nuclear fuel 
suppliers to conduct business with India," the State Department said in a 

U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns and 
Indian Ambassador to the United States Meera Shankar signed the 
reprocessing deal. Washington previously had only signed such agreements 
with Japan and European Union states.

The comprehensive deal on trade in atomic material and equipment was 
signed in 2008 during the Bush administration. However, U.S. firms have 
yet to begin doing nuclear business in India as Washington and New Delhi 
continued to hammer out the last particulars of the agreement. During that 
time, French and Russian atomic companies have rushed to enter India's 
expanding nuclear power market.

The recycling of used U.S. nuclear material is to take place at a new 
plant under the watch of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the State 
Department said (Agence France-Presse/Google News, July 31).

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said "today marks one of the final 
steps in terms of implementation of the U.S.-India Civilian Nuclear 
Cooperation Agreement," the Hindustan Times reported.

New Delhi and Washington would like to see all remaining barriers to full 
implementation of the deal dealt with prior to President Barack Obama's 
trip to India in November (Anirudh Bhattacharyya, Hindustan Times I, Aug. 

The last major hurdle to the deal is Indian nuclear liability legislation 
that limits how much foreign firms can be required to pay out following an 
atomic disaster at one of their plants. A bill on the matter has been held 
up in India's Parliament due to strong criticism from opposition lawmakers 
concerned the measure does not adequately account for the interests of 
potential Indian victims. Without a liability cap, though, U.S. firms are 
unable to secure insurance to operate in the South Asian nation.

In order to secure passage of the bill before Obama's trip, sources said 
there is a chance of increasing the financial damages for which nuclear 
plant operators could be held liable. Liability is currently set at less 
than $110 million the Times reported.

The legislation could also be amended to make the details of agreements 
between plant operators and nuclear material suppliers more open to public 
scrutiny, the sources said.

India's coalition government is optimistic these tweaks to the bill would 
secure enough votes to win parliamentary approval.

A senior opposition lawmaker, however, indicated there were additional 
points of contention to be addressed. "The cap apart, there are issues 
regarding environment and public health to be addressed. And the argument 
that American life is more precious than Indian life is not acceptable," 
the Bharatiya Janata Party leader said (Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times II, 
Aug. 1).
Let's see now.  We don't reprocess nuclear fuel here in the US because the 
danger of diversion of plutonium for weapons is too great.  So we build a 
reprocessing plant in India instead where the danger of diversion is 

Clayton Bradt
dutchbradt at hughes.net

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