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India lobbies on nuclear safety

TIMETABLE FOR NUCLEAR ACCORD
India's Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, located 30km from Mumbai (Bombay)
Approval needed from IAEA, due to meet 1 August
Consent also required from 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group
Congress to approve deal before President Bush signs it into law
All this to happen before Mr Bush's tenure expires on 3 January 2009

Indian officials have met members of the world nuclear regulatory body in Vienna to discuss plans to safeguard India's civilian nuclear facilities.

The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) approval of the plan is a key condition for enacting a nuclear deal between India and the US.

Left-wing parties in India withdrew support for the governing coalition in protest against the deal.

The government says it is needed to meet soaring energy demands.

After Friday's meeting diplomats refused to comment publicly on how it went.

Delhi is under pressure from Washington to sign the accord before the US presidential elections in November.

India has to sign a "safeguards agreement" with the IAEA before it can go ahead with the deal.

Under the terms of the accord, India would get access to US civilian nuclear technology and fuel.

In return, Delhi would open its civilian nuclear facilities to inspection - but its nuclear weapons sites would remain off-limits.

Restrictions

If the IAEA signs the agreement, the deal will go to the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, which regulates global civilian nuclear trade, for approval.

Communists demonstrate against nuclear deal
India's communists oppose a partnership with the US

It must then by approved by the US Congress before President Bush can sign it into law.

Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon led a team of officials in Vienna to brief member countries of the IAEA and Nuclear Suppliers Group on the planned safeguards.

US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns was also in Vienna for "consultations at the IAEA relating to the nuclear deal [with India]", according to State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

A special meeting of the 35-nation IAEA board of governors on the safeguards agreement will take place on 1 August.

A restricted draft of India's plans for safeguarding nuclear facilities has been already given to IAEA member nations ahead of the meeting.

Some critics who have seen the draft have said several points in it appear to restrict international monitoring of India's atomic programme.

NUCLEAR POWER IN INDIA
India has 14 reactors in commercial operation and nine under construction
Nuclear power supplies about 3% of India's electricity
By 2050, nuclear power is expected to provide 25% of the country's electricity
India has limited coal and uranium reserves
Its huge thorium reserves - about 25% of the world's total - are expected to fuel its nuclear power programme long-term
Source: Uranium Information Center

The US restricted nuclear co-operation with India - which has not signed the 1972 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) - after it first tested a nuclear weapon in 1974.

Critics of the deal fear assistance to India's civil programme could free-up additional radioactive material for bomb-making purposes.

Meanwhile, left-wing parties in India have launched a national campaign against the nuclear deal.

The governing coalition, which has now been reduced to a minority after its communist allies withdrew support, will seek a vote of confidence on 22 July.

If the government loses the vote, India faces early elections and the nuclear deal would probably be scuttled.


SEE ALSO
IAEA sets date for India proposal
15 Jul 08 |  South Asia

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