US, India wrap up reprocessing negotiations, fast-track n-deal


New Delhi: Ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Washington, India and the US Monday announced the finalisation of negotiations on “arrangements and procedures” for reprocessing US-origin spent fuel, a crucial step for implementing the historic nuclear deal signed in September 2008.

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“India and the US have taken an important step towards implementing the civil nuclear cooperation agreement, by completing negotiations on arrangements and procedures for reprocessing US-obligated spent nuclear fuel,” the external affairs ministry said in a statement here.

The US state department in Washington also announced the conclusion of negotiations on a reprocessing pact, which was concluded during the last round of negotiations held in New Delhi March 2-4 this year. The first round was held in July last year.

US ambassador Timothy J. Roemer hailed the wrapping up of reprocessing negotiations much before the July 2010 deadline and lauded India’s “outstanding track record on non-proliferation issues.”

“This important step is part of the great, win-win narrative of the US-India global partnership, affirming the commitment of our two countries to realize the full potential of our landmark civil nuclear agreement,” the US envoy said.

These arrangements, the envoy pointed out, will open the door for US firms in India’s rapidly expanding energy sector, creating thousands of jobs for the citizens of both our countries.

“The US and India are close to completing an historic partnership on civil nuclear cooperation, an issue of global significance,” he said.

These arrangements, negotiated pursuant to Article 6(iii) of the 123 bilateral India-US civil nuclear agreement, will enable Indian reprocessing of US-origin nuclear material under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.

Setting a positive tone for Manmohan Singh’s visit to Washington April 12-13 to attend the Nuclear Security Summit, the envoy said the US recognised that the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh shared US President Barack Obama’s bold vision for a nuclear weapons-free world.

“We applaud India’s outstanding track record on non-proliferation issues, and we look forward to our continuing cooperation in this area,” he said.

The pact was finalised after the third round of negotiations early March between India’s Department of Atomic Energy officials led by R.B. Grover and the US delegation led by Richard Stratford, the non-proliferation and disarmament expert in the State Department.

The Indian government, on its part, is pushing hard for passing the Civil Nuclear Liabilities Bill, that limits damages to be paid by foreign nuclear companies in case of nuclear accidents, in the budget session of parliament.

The civil liability legislation is the last step India is required to complete before the two sides can commence nuclear commerce.

The reprocessing negotiations were expected to be completed during Manmohan Singh’s Nov 26 state visit to Washington last year, but differences over some issues and the drafting of the text delayed the pact.

Following months of hard-nosed negotiations, the US side has accepted India’s proposal for multiple dedicated national facilities for reprocessing spent fuel, reliable sources said.

The two sides have also been able to find a way out to accommodate each other’s concerns over India’s right to reprocess in case it conducts a nuclear test.

India has also agreed to security levels at reprocessing facilities, followed by nuclear powers like the US.