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|June 16, 1998||
US experts charge India with lying about plutonium's end-use
US experts want the Clinton administration to bar India from using weapons-grade plutonium available from its American-Canadian supplied research project for making nuclear bombs.
Victor Gilinsky and Paul Leventhal, writing in the Washington Post, contend that the military plutonium stocks India dipped into for its recent nuclear tests came from the research project provided years ago by the United States and Canada. India had promised both countries it would not use this plutonium for bombs.
''If Washington and Ottawa were now to keep India to its promise and verify this, India would lose more than half the weapons-grade plutonium for its nuclear bombs and missiles,'' they say, adding, ''The US and Canada should make this an essential condition for the lifting of economic sanctions.''
They say the plutonium in question is approximately 600 pounds -- enough for about 50 bombs -- produced in India's Cirrus research reactor since it began operating in 1960. This was an ''atoms for peace'' reactor built by Canada and made operable by an essential 21 tonnes of heavy water supplied by the United States.
In return for this assistance, they point out, India promised both suppliers in writing that the reactor would be reserved for ''peaceful purposes.''
India used plutonium from this reactor for its 1974 nuclear explosion. When the facts emerged, the then prime minister Indira Gandhi insisted there had been no violation of the peaceful-use commitments because India had set of a ''peaceful nuclear explosion.''
Energy consultant Gilinsky and Nuclear Control Institute president Leventhal were, respectively, a member of the nuclear regulatory commission and of the US senate staff, at the time of India's 1974 test.
They say the Indian scientist then in charge, Raja Ramanna, now has admitted it was a bomb all along and India now has declared itself a nuclear-weapons state on the basis of its current tests.
With the decades-old peaceful ''pretence'' stripped away, the United States and Canada should make unambiguously clear that India may not use Cirrus plutonium for warheads and related research, they add.
They also draw attention to a 1963 agreement covering two US-supplied nuclear power reactors at Tarapur and their fuel. The radioactive used fuel from these reactors is in storage and contains most of India's ''reactor-grade'' plutonium.
India has said it will reprocess the used fuel to extract the plutonium for use as civilian power-reactor fuel. But reactor-grade plutonium is also explosive and, once separated, it could be used by India's scientists for rapid deployment in warheads. There is enough Tarapur plutonium for hundreds of them, they say.
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