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Don't go ahead with the N-deal: Top scientists
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June 24, 2008 02:03 IST

At a time when the country is divided over the Indo-US nuclear deal, three prominent nuclear scientists have urged the government not to go ahead with the controversial deal.

Former chairman of Atomic  Energy Commission Dr. P K Iyengar, former chairman of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board Dr A Gopalakrishnan and former director of Bhabha Atomic Research Center Dr.A.N. Prasad say that there is a great  deal of disquiet among the scientific community at large about the deal.

They also said they had met the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] earlier and discussed about the after-effects of the deal, besides writing to the MPS.

The scientists say the government should  not proceed to  seek  IAEA board approval  for the current draft safeguards agreement until  its  implications are debated completely the country.

Disputing the government's claim about the energy security aspect if the deal is signed, the scientists say it has been quantitatively shown that the additional power will come at a much higher cost per unit of electricity compared  to the conventional coal  or  hydro  power, which India can generate without any foreign imports.  
In a release, the scientists argue about the repercussions of the nuclear deal.

Here are the excerpts:

"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  programme of  our  own.

The nuclear 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. 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 &  organizations, 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  &  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  &  introspection  that  is vital  for  a  serious  debate  which  the  situation  demands.

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.

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  &  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  public.
 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  finalization  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 .      
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 &  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  finalized . 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.

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." 

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