NEW DELHI: Three of the country’s top nuclear scientists have said that once the nuclear deal is in place, India’s commercial nuclear interaction with other countries will be “firmly controlled” by Washington through the Hyde Act enforced through the U.S. “stranglehold” on the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
The scientists — P. K. Iyengar (former chairman, Atomic Energy Commission), A. Gopalakrishnan (former Atomic Energy Regulatory Board chief) and A.N. Prasad (former Bhabha Atomic Research Centre Director — have written a letter of appeal to Members of Parliament (MPs) on the Indo-U.S. civilian nuclear cooperation and pointed out several lacunae in the draft safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
“We are strongly of the opinion that the government should not seek the IAEA Board’s approval for the current draft safeguards agreement until its implications are debated more fully within the country and with a group of experts who were not party to the IAEA negotiations,” they observed, adding that analysts had convincingly refuted the government’s main reason for pushing the deal — energy security to the country.
The deal will not be governed by the bilateral 123 Agreement because it is anchored in U.S. domestic laws, including the Hyde Act, which contains several stipulations “extraneous to the issue of bilateral nuclear cooperation, including foreign policy behaviour which India needs to adhere to if the deal is to be kept alive.” “India-specific?”
The deal could also have other serious repercussions, including a potential weakening of India’s nuclear deterrent and an inability to protect & promote indigenous R&D efforts in nuclear technology.
They expressed doubts about the safeguards agreement being India-specific. For, it was “distinctly” clear from the Hyde Act and the 123 Agreement that no uninterrupted fuel supplies were guaranteed. “The government had assured that this defect will be corrected in the safeguards agreement but since the IAEA was all along known to be no fuel-supply guarantor, it is not surprising that Indian negotiators have failed to obtain any assurance in this regard.”
“The corrective measures mentioned in the preamble to the safeguards agreement have nothing that anchors them to any section in the operative part of the agreement.”
“The nation would like to know clearly what these corrective measures are, before plunging headlong into this deal. India being merely allowed to withdraw the Indian-built civilian [pressurised heavy water reactors] PHWRs from safeguards, and that too after stripping them of all spent & fresh fuel and components of foreign origin, is not a corrective step because this action does not ensure uninterrupted operation in the event of disruption of foreign fuel supplies.”
“Even here, Article 32 of the Safeguards Agreement appears to stand in the way of any such withdrawal. Besides, this relaxation does not apply to the imported power reactors, which will use up the bulk of our investments in nuclear power; these units will perpetually stay under safeguards, even after fuel supplies are denied,” noted the scientists.
The scientists also drew attention to the fact that the Hyde Act prohibits the U.S. administration from directly or indirectly assisting India with lifetime fuel supplies after suspension of the deal. “Therefore, the government owes a clarification to the Parliament and the public about how they intend to avoid the consequential huge economic loss from the non-operation of these extremely costly imported reactors, as a result of fuel denial.”
The government also needs to clarify its thinking on the Additional Protocol before entering into the safeguards agreement. The government had pledged to secure an unqualified right to reprocess spent-fuel and even termed India’s right to reprocess “non-negotiable.” But the 123 Agreement has an “empty theoretical right” to reprocess.
The actual permission will come after years, when a dedicated state-of-the art reprocessing plant is built anew to treat foreign fuel, along with a host of allied facilities.
Similarly, there are many other key safeguards-related issues which have been unaddressed in the draft safeguards agreement and none had been handled adequately or in an acceptable manner.
“We therefore appeal to the Members of the Lok Sabha to direct the government not to proceed further with the current safeguards agreement, and ask the Prime Minister to initiate wide-ranging and structured deliberations on the deal to develop a broad consensus among political parties,” they said।
(From - THE HINDU)