People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 25

June 29 , 2008


Senior Nuclear Scientists  Against Rushing To IAEA

Three senior nuclear scientists of the nation, Dr P K Iyengar, former chairman, Atomic  Energy  Commission, Dr A Gopalakrishnan, former chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, and Dr A N Prasad, former director, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre jointly issued the following statement on the IAEA safeguards agreement on June 24, 2008.

  1.  We  were  part  of  a  group  of  senior   nuclear scientists  who  had  in  the  past  expressed  our  grave concerns  and  objections  to  India  entering  into  a nuclear  co-operation  agreement  with  the  US  under the  aegis  of  the  Hyde Act 2006. We had written to the  parliamentarians  on  this  matter, and  the  prime minister  had    given  us  an  opportunity  to  meet  with him  and  discuss  our  views.

At  this  critical  juncture, when  the  government  is  about  to  rush the  safeguards  agreement  to  the  IAEA  without  giving  its  details even  to  their  own  UPA-Left  committee  created  specifically  for a joint  evaluation of  the deal, there  is  a  great  deal  of  disquiet  among      the  scientific  community at  large  in this  country. We,  therefore, are  strongly  of  the  opinion  that  the  government  should  not proceed  to  seek  IAEA  Board  approval  for  the  current  draft safeguards  agreement, until  its  implications  are  debated  more fully  within  the  country, or  at  least  within  the  UPA-Left  committee  as  well  as  with  a  group  of  experts  who  were  not party  to  the  IAEA  negotiations .


  1.  The  government  is  enthusiastically  pushing  the  deal  on  the  basis  that  it  will  bring  about  energy  security  to  India, since  it  will  enable  the  import  of  foreign  nuclear power  reactors. But, analysts have  convincingly  and  quantitatively  shown  that  this  additional  power  will  come  at  a  much  higher  cost  per  unit  of  electricity  compared  to  conventional  coal  or  hydro  power, which  India  can  generate  without  any  foreign  imports. Once  the  deal  is  in  place, it  is  also  clear  that  India's  commercial nuclear  interactions  with  the  US, as  well  as  with  any  other country , will  be  firmly  controlled  from  Washington via the stipulations  of  the  Hyde Act 2006 enforced through the stranglehold which  the  US  retains  on  the  Nuclear  Suppliers Group. Any  argument  to  the  effect  that  the  deal will be governed only by the bilateral 123 Agreement is untenable, because this agreement in turn is anchored in US domestic laws, which  include the  Hyde  Act. And, the  Hyde  Act  contains  several  stipulations  which  are extraneous  to  the  issue  of  bilateral  nuclear  co-operation, including  foreign  policy  behaviour  which  India needs to  adhere  to if  the  deal  is  to  be  kept alive. The  real  issue  facing India, therefore, is  whether  or  not  we  want  this  mythical  extra       'energy security ' through  this  deal, paying  almost  thrice  the  unit capital  cost  of  conventional  power  plants, with  the  additional burden  of subjugating  the  freedom  to  pursue  a  foreign  policy  and indigenous  nuclear  R&D  program of  our  own.
  1.  The  nuclear  deal  could  also  have  other  serious  repercussions, including a potential weakening of  India's  nuclear  deterrent  and  an  inability  to  protect  and promote indigenous R&D efforts in nuclear  technology. A combination of  the  extreme  secrecy  with  which  the  government  has  carried  forward  this  deal, the  media  hype they  were  able  to  generate  in  its  favour,  the  parochial interests of opportunistic individuals and organisations, and the unfortunate  ignorance  of  the  issues  involved  among  the general  public  have  put  the  country  on  a  dangerous  path, likely  to  lead  to  the  detriment  of  the  current  and  future  generations of  Indians.  Today's  urgency  to  rush  to  the  IAEA  Board, in  consonance  with  the  American  timetable, to  get  the  safeguards agreement  approved  and  thereafter  clinch  the  deal  during  the        tenures  of  the  current  governments  in  India  and  the  US  must, therefore, be  replaced  with  an  openness  and introspection  that  is vital  for  a  serious  debate  which  the  situation  demands.
  1.  The  central  issue  about  the  IAEA  safeguards  agreement  has  been  the  doubt  as  to  how  “India-specific”  these  are. In  particular, since  it  is  distinctly  clear  from  the  Hyde  Act  and  the  123  agreement  that  no  uninterrupted  fuel  supplies  have  been  guaranteed  in  these  documents  for  reactors  which  India  will  place  under  safeguards, the  government  had  assured  that  this  defect  will  be  corrected  in  the  safeguards  agreement. Since  the  IAEA  was  all  along  known  to  be  no  fuel-supply  guarantor, there  is  serious  doubt  whether  Indian  negotiators  obtained  any  assurance  in  this  regard.
  1.  As  per  the  123  agreement, the  government  has  all  along  asserted  that  the  IAEA  safeguards  will  have  “provisions  for  corrective measures  that India  may  take  to  ensure  uninterrupted  operation  of its  civilian  nuclear  reactors  in  the  event  of  disruption of  foreign fuel  supplies. Taking  this  into  account, India  will  place  its  civilian nuclear  facilities  under  India-specific  safeguards  in  perpetuity”. The  nation  would  like  to  know  clearly  what  these  “corrective  measures”  will  be , before  plunging  headlong  into  this  deal. India  being  merely  allowed  to  withdraw  from  safeguards  the  Indian-built  PHWRs  we  may  place  under  safeguards, and  that  too  after  stripping  them  of  all  spent  and fresh  fuel  and  components  of  foreign  origin, is  no  corrective  step  at  all  because  such  action  does   not   ensure  uninterrupted   operation  of   these  civilian  nuclear   reactors   in  the   event  of   disruption of  foreign fuel  supplies.  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. The  Hyde  Act  prohibits  the  US  administration  from  directly  or  indirectly (through  the  IAEA  or  other  countries) assisting  India  with  life-time  fuel  supplies  after  suspension  of  the  deal.  Therefore, the  government  owes  a  clarification  in  this  regard  to  the  UPA-Left  committee  and  the  Indian  public.
  1.  The  123  agreement  states  that  the  imports  under  the  deal  “shall be  subject  to  safeguards  in  perpetuity  in  accordance  with  the India-specific  Safeguards  Agreement  between  India  and  the  IAEA and  an  Additional  Protocol, when in  force”.  While  the  actual  draft  of  the  Additional  Protocol (AP)  applicable  to  India  may  have  to  be  negotiated  and  agreed  to  at  a  later  date, it  is  absolutely  necessary  that  a  prior  agreement  between  the  IAEA  and  India  on  the  essential  features  of  such  an  Additional  Protocol  must  be  reached  simultaneous  with  the  finalisation  of  the  safeguards  agreement  and  before  signing  it. The  most  intrusive  actions  under  safeguards  are  always  taken  on  the  basis  of  this  protocol, including  the  “pursuit  clause”  which  permits interference  with  our  non-civilian  programs  on  the  basis  of  unsubstantiated  suspicion. India  needs  to  make  it  clear  what  the  limits  are  beyond  which  we  will  not  entertain  any  IAEA  action  or  intrusion, and  it  should  be  clear  that  a  standard  Model  Protocol  applicable  to  non-nuclear weapon  States  will not  be  acceptable  to  India. The  leverage  to debate and get the  kind  of  restricted  Additional  Protocol  we  want will  be  entirely  lost  once  a  safeguards  agreement  alone  is  first  put  in  place  and  the  installations put  under  safeguards. As  we  understand, the  limitations  within  which  India  is  willing  to  enter  into  the  Additional  Protocol  regime  was  neither  discussed  by  Indian  negotiators  at  the  IAEA  nor  do  they  appear  in  the  safeguards  draft  or its  attachments. The government  needs  to  clarify  their  thinking  on  the  Additional  Protocol  before proceeding  to  the  IAEA  Board .      
  1.  Reprocessing  the spent-fuel  arising  from  burning fresh  imported fuel  in  our  civilian  reactors  provides us  valuable  additional  plutonium, which  in  turn  can be  recycled  into  future  civilian  fast  breeder  reactors (FBRs)  or  advanced  heavy  water  reactors (AHWRs). Reprocessing, therefore, is  at the core  of  India's  plans to  build long-term  energy  security.

The  government  had  all  along  pledged  to  secure an  unqualified right  to reprocess spent-fuel and even  termed  India's right to reprocess "non-negotiable". But, in  the  123  agreement, what has finally  been  obtained  is  merely  an empty theoretical right to reprocess. The  actual  permission  to  reprocess  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. There  will  be  a  large  number  of  safeguards and Additional  Protocol issues  related  to  this, and  all  these  hurdles  will  have  to  be crossed  to  reach  the  beginning  of  reprocessing . Much  of  the fundamental  basis  on  which  all  this  will  be  done  has  to  be discussed  and  settled  now  at  the  outset, while  the  overall safeguards  agreement  is  being  finalised. But, the  government  has not  done this  exercise  during  the  recent  set  of  negotiations  with the  IAEA, and  this  deficiency  will  come  to  haunt  India  in  future unless  it  is  removed.

  1.  In  the  above  manner , there  are  several  other  key  safeguards-related  issues  of  crucial  importance, for  which  no  one, including  the  UPA-Left  committee  which  the  government  created,  has  been  provided  answers.  None  of  the  issues  raised  in  this  press  release  can  be  addressed  adequately  and  in  an  acceptable  manner unless  the  entire  safeguards  agreement  and  its  associated  papers  are  made  available to the  UPA-Left committee for their  evaluation, as  well  as  to  a  set  of  independent  national  experts  who  have  so  far  not  been  part  of  the  government's  negotiations  with  the  IAEA.