UN approves India-US nuclear deal

August 3rd, 2008  

Topic: UN approves India-US nuclear deal


BBC News

UN nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has backed a controversial nuclear deal between India and the US, diplomats say.

Approval was granted after the agency's 35-nation board met in the Austrian capital, Vienna, officials said.

India's government recently survived a confidence vote over the deal, and says it is vital to meet energy demands.

Critics say the plan rewards a non-proliferation outsider. IAEA approval is a key condition for enacting it.

India must now win an unprecedented waiver from the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) later in August which would allow it to trade in sensitive nuclear materials.

The deal must also be ratified by the US Congress.


IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei told those present at the closed meeting that a basic inspection plan for India met agency safeguards.

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

"It satisfies India's needs while maintaining all the agency's legal requirements." Talks had started on a system of extended checks, he added.

IAEA inspectors are supposed to monitor Indian nuclear reactors to ensure fuel is not diverted to military use.

The deal would allow India to enter the world market in nuclear fuel and technology - as long as it is for civilian purposes.

It had previously been banned from doing so under the terms of a 30-year embargo imposed because of its testing of atomic bombs and refusal to join the global Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

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.

Correspondents say that 14 of India's 22 existing or planned reactors would come under regular IAEA surveillance if the deal goes ahead.

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


The head of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission, Anil Kakodkar, is leading a team of officials in Vienna to brief member countries of the IAEA and the NSG on the planned safeguards.

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

The US restricted nuclear co-operation with India after it first tested a nuclear weapon in 1974.

Critics of the deal say it creates a dangerous precedent - allowing India access to fuel and technology without requiring it to sign the NPT as other countries must do.

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

But, despite the reservations, the BBC's Kerry Skyring in Vienna says diplomats believed IAEA approval was likely because the inspections will mean a net gain in nuclear safeguards.

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