Page last updated at 16:14 GMT, Monday, 10 November 2008

Britain lifts India nuclear ban

India's Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, located 30km from Mumbai (Bombay)
India wants access to international civilian nuclear technology

The UK Government has announced the lifting of a ban on exporting sensitive nuclear technology to India.

Firms had up until last month been banned from supplying equipment and material on the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) "trigger list" to India.

But the government says that items intended for civilian nuclear projects can now be exported.

The NSG agreed in September to lift a ban that had denied India access to the international nuclear market.

Last month the US and India signed a civilian nuclear co-operation accord to end 34 years of US sanctions.

Shortly before that, France - the world's second largest producer of nuclear energy after the US - signed an agreement with India which paved the way for the sale of French nuclear reactors to Delhi.

Russia has also been lobbying the Indian government hard on behalf of its firms.

'Explosive activities'

The change in the British government's position follows the NSG statement in September.

Site of 1974 crater in the Thar desert area, southwest of Delhi
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

Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell told parliament in a written statement: "Since March 2002 UK policy has been to refuse all licence applications for Trigger List items to India.

"That policy has now changed and we will now consider on a case by case basis licence applications for peaceful use of all items... destined for International Atomic Energy Agency safeguarded civil nuclear facilities in India."

He said that the ban would remain in force on items destined for "unsafeguarded nuclear fuel cycle or nuclear explosive activities" or where there is an "unacceptable risk" the material might be diverted to those activities.

"We will continue to encourage contacts between UK nuclear scientists, academics and those working in or with the UK nuclear industry with their Indian counterparts, except where we consider that such contacts might be of assistance to the weapons-related aspects of its nuclear programme," Mr Rammell said.

"Where such contacts involve the transfer of technology which require export licences we will continue to consider applications for such licences on a cases-by-case basis, in accordance with the provisions of UK export control legislation."

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