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India notifies separation plan to IAEA

October 16, 2009 16:06 IST

India has notified its Separation Plan to the International Atomic Energy Agency, almost 14 months after the 35-member board of governors of the IAEA approved the country-specific nuclear safeguards agreement.

The notification formalities were completed on Thursday night, a crucial step in paving way for the implementation of international civil nuclear cooperation, Department of Atomic Energy sources said.

The India Specific Safeguards Agreement (ISSA) or the 'umbrella' agreement approved by consensus by the IAEA Board on August 1 last year can now officially enter into force formally separating India's civilian and strategic nuclear establishments.

India will be placing a total of 14 Indian reactors under ISSA of international nuclear watchdog by 2014.

On Thursday, the indigenously built two units of 220 MW of Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS units 5 and 6) were formally brought under ISSA and this is a major milestone for India's integrate with the world nuclear suppliers group, they said.

The separation plan was officially announced in March 2006 during US President George W Bush's visit to India.

IAEA would begin to implement the new Safeguards Agreement this year by inspecting the imported Uranium fuel fabrication at the Nuclear Fuel Complex at Hyderabad and its transfer and loading on the newly constructed RAPS 5 and 6.

IAEA inspectors have already fixed cameras at the plant site of RAPS 5 and 6, which are to be commissioned by December, after a delay of almost one year. The agency currently applies safeguards to six Indian nuclear reactors (units 1 and 2 at Tarapur, Units 1 and 2 of RAPS, Units 1 and 2 of Koodankulam) under Safeguards Agreements concluded between 1971 and 1994.

India will place Units 3 and 4 of RAPS under safeguards in 2010, two units of Kakrapar Atomic Power Station and two units of Narora Atomic Power Station in 2012 and 2014 respectively, the sources said.

Under the separation plan, India has decided to permanently shut down the CIRUS research reactor located inside Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), country's strategic lab, in 2010.

The fuel core of the Apsara, another research reactor in BARC reactor, was purchased from France, and India was prepared to shift it from its present location and make it available for placing under safeguards in 2010.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in his statement, had said: 'We have decided to take these steps rather than allow intrusive inspections in a nuclear facility of high national security importance.'

Meanwhile, India and US officials had completed the second round of consultations last week in Vienna to settle the much-awaited 'Arrangements and Procedures' agreement on reprocessing spent nuclear fuel of American origin.

"We will have a third round of talks in November," Ravi B Grover, Chief Indian Negotiator and Director, Strategic Planning of the Department of Atomic Energy told PTI.

However, Grover refused to comment whether both India and the US will be able to finalise the 'Arrangements and Procedures' agreement on reprocessing spent nuclear fuel of American origin before the Prime Minister's visit to the US.
Clinching this particular agreement is critical to initiating interactions in the nuclear field at a commercial level, and also for operationalisation of the Indo-US nuclear deal, DAE sources said.

Under the 123 Agreement with the United States, India has to establish a new national facility dedicated to reprocessing nuclear material under the safeguards of the IAEA.

A potential sticking point was Indian insistence on retaining "...upfront sovereign rights in whatever we do, including reprocessing," as DAE officials had put it after the first round of talks at Vienna.

But according to US business group, the July-talks in Vienna had surprises for both the sides and were progressing on a positive note.

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