June 28th, 2010
Ending freeze, India, Canada sign N-deal info
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NEW DELHI: By signing a new civil nuclear agreement, Canada and India have sought to wipe off a history of strained relations that goes back to India's 1974 nuclear test that resulted in Ottawa freezing nuclear cooperation with New Delhi.
As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper signed the ninth civil nuclear agreement that India has concluded since the Nuclear Suppliers Group gave it a waiver in 2008, Canada is getting ready to supply India with 2,000 tonnes of uranium to power India's existing and future reactors.
The MEA said the Canada agreement would provide for cooperation in "design, construction, maintenance, sharing of operating experience and decommissioning of nuclear reactors, supply of uranium, projects in third countries, nuclear fuel cycle and nuclear waste management."
Singh and Harper said there were sufficient mechanisms in the new trade deal to prevent Canadian nuclear fuel or technology from being used to support India's military nuclear program.
"We did engage in extensive negotiations to deal with those issues and the Indian side was very forthcoming with the safeguards as we require to have absolute confidence in (such) matters," Harper said.
"There is absolutely no scope whatsoever of the nuclear materials or nuclear equipment in India being used for unintended purposes," Singh declared.
It is not clear whether India will be able to access enrichment and reprocessing technology as part of the agreement. India is keen to access new reprocessing technology and has already committed more than one civilian-dedicated reprocessing facility for the purpose. But apart from France, no other country has so far offered this technology. And a global regime, led by the US, is pushing nuclear supplying countries to restrict such transfers.
Hailing the agreement, Congress party spokesperson Manish Tiwari said Canada's actions should be a cue for Australia to amend its rules regarding uranium exports to India. Canada's CANDU reactors are familiar in India, being the first ones to be imported by India.
But India is on a different level today, and just as Canada exports its CANDU technology, India is keen to market its pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWR) to other countries. The PHWR that India touts is a development of how it used the designs of the original CANDU reactors, so there should be greater synergy between the two technologies. Ideally, it should provide Indians an opportunity for joint marketing.
The MEA statement said, "Taking into account their respective strengths with regards to PHWRs and CANDU reactors, there is considerable scope for joint work between the two countries."
For Canada, the deal is important because it allows its nuclear industry to expand into India's market, just like the French and Russian.
India is building a new set of PHWRs over the next few years, and given the similarities, will be able to import equipment and materials more quickly. With Australia still holding off supplying uranium to India, Canada is likely to emerge as one of India's major suppliers.