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'Russia pact allows reprocessing of nuke fuel'

Press Trust of India

Posted: Jan 30, 2007 at 2007 hrs IST

The recent Indo-Russian agreement will facilitate the reprocessing of nuclear fuel by New Delhi for atomic power plants built with Moscow's assistance, top officials of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited have said.

India will not have any constraint to proceed with a ‘closed fuel cycle’ as Russia has recognised it as an equal partner and a responsible nuclear country, they said.

Just as in the earlier agreement on two units of 1,000 MW each for the Kudankulam atomic power plant in Tamil Nadu, the ‘intent’ signed between Russia and India on January 25 during President Vladimir Putin's visit has a provision for a closed fuel cycle, the officials said.

"This is in sharp contrast to the Indo-US nuclear deliberations in which the whole agenda, apart from providing economic benefit to US business, further restricts even India's indigenously created technologies under the guise of non-proliferation," an official said.

In a closed nuclear fuel cycle, the fuel goes through different stages--including mining, preparation for use in a reactor and reprocessing for energy and safe management of radioactive waste. If the spent fuel is not reprocessed, then the cycle is called an ‘open fuel cycle’.

“The issue of spent fuel was never a problem with the Russians and they clearly said about the use of a closed fuel cycle with the Russian reactors which are already under construction and those reactors (at least four more) which will come up in the next decade," an official said.

The Indo-Russian joint statement said both countries will expand civil nuclear energy cooperation, with emphasis on nuclear power generation aimed at enabling India to realize its ‘goals of promoting nuclear power and achieving energy security in a self sustaining manner’.

The reference to a ‘self sustaining manner’ indicates the closed fuel cycle, the NPCIL officials said.

"Of course, the entire fuel cycle will be under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards," an official said.

Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar said, "the signing of the intent on January 25 with the Russian government was a way forward in the whole process of getting energy security for India".

"We have the right to enter into a bilateral agreement with any country and we hope more countries will come forward to mutual benefit," he said.

NPCIL officials said they were confident that Russia would play a major role in a forthcoming meeting in a couple of months to get the Nuclear Supplier Group's guidelines changed in favour of India.

Russia, as one of the five nuclear power countries, ‘we will be happy to work with it as equal partner’, they said.

A top DAE official, who will take part in negotiations on the 123 agreement with the US, said on condition of anonymity that 'in stark contrast to long debates and wrangling on the Indo-US nuclear deal, the Russians have not curtailed India by hiding behind the fig leaf of non-proliferation or by making it contingent on India to align with Russian foreign policy'.

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