21 December 2005

U.S. non-proliferation group ups the ante with draft separation plan

David Albright's ISIS has come up with the first unofficial U.S. attempt to specify what the proposed separation of India's civilian and nuclear facilities should look like. Unlike the 18 American proliferation experts and former government officials who wrote to the U.S. Congress on November 18 saying the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal could do "unintentional damage" to the "international non-proliferation regime", the ISIS report is less bearish on the landmark nuclear agreement struck by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George Bush on July 18, 2005. However, Indian nuclear experts do not think much of its separation prescriptions.

21 December 2005
The Hindu

U.S. non-proliferation group ups the ante with draft separation plan

"India should place all power reactors, naval fuel cycle, Rare Materials Plant under safeguards"

Siddharth Varadarajan

New Delhi: On the eve of India's crucial talks with the United States on its proposed separation of civilian and military nuclear facilities, an influential U.S. non-proliferation think tank has come up with its own plan for how the separation should be effected.

In a six-page report released on Monday, David Albright and Susan Basu of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) say all of India's nuclear facilities "not directly associated with nuclear weapons production or deployment" should be placed under international safeguards which "should apply in perpetuity, with minor, standard exceptions that do not include use in nuclear explosives or weapons."

The report also says safeguarded nuclear material "should not co-mingle with unsafeguarded nuclear material in any facility, unless this unsafeguarded nuclear material also comes under safeguards."

Calling this latter condition an example of the "key safeguards principle" of "contamination," it admits that these conditions "do not appear to have been accepted by India" as per the text of the July 18, 2005 statement. At the same time, the report asserts that the perpetuity and contamination principles are necessary "to prevent civil nuclear cooperation from benefiting India's nuclear weapons program."

The ISIS report is the first unofficial U.S. attempt to specify what the Indian separation plan should look like. It divides India's nuclear facilities into three categories: first, those "not directly associated with nuclear weapons production or deployment;" second, its weapons-related facilities, and third, facilities "associated with its naval nuclear fuel cycle." The report says all facilities in the first and third categories must be placed under international safeguards without exception. This means all power reactors, spent fuel reprocessing plants and the two prototype fast breeder reactors at Kalpakkamin Tamil Nadu.

Naval facilities

As for the naval-related facilities — listed in the report as the Advanced Technology Reactor Programme at Kalpakkam, the gas centrifuge plant at the Rare Materials Plant (RMP) at Rattehalli in Karnataka, and all nuclear submarine reactors — the ISIS says exempting such facilities from safeguards "would undermine efforts to safeguard such facilities in non-nuclear weapon states party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty." It notes that Brazil accepted safeguards on its prototype naval reactor and its enrichment plants at Aramar that are dedicated to the production of naval reactor fuel. "Safeguards applied in India should be consistent with the IAEA's approach in Brazil," it says.

Indian nuclear experts who have been through the ISIS "separation plan" say there is no way its prescriptions can be accepted. "The basic idea in all these unofficial and official U.S. approaches is that [notwithstanding whatever was agreed to in the July 18 statement] India cannot be treated as a nuclear weapon state," Dr. A.N. Prasad, a former director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, told The Hindu on Tuesday.

On the question of separation, Dr. Prasad said the pressure to include specific facilities would go on. "The U.S. wants our plan to be `credible,' which means it must be acceptable to them, and `transparent,' which means every aspect of our thinking has to be known to them." It was also unrealistic to expect that the U.S. would keep its side of the bargain before India took any concrete step. The key, he said, was to ensure that India did not take measures it would then find difficult or costly to reverse if the U.S. failed to deliver.

As for the ISIS report, Dr. Prasad said the proposals on the breeder programme, naval reactors and other facilities were outlandish. "The Rare Materials Plant cannot even be discussed, let alone safeguarded," he said.

The only facilities the ISIS says India should be allowed to keep off the safeguarded list are those directly connected to its weapons programme. According to the report, these are the Dhruva research reactor, the Fuel Fabrication Plant, the Plutonium Separation Plant and the Plutonium Weapon Component facility (all at Trombay), India's unknown nuclear weapons storage sites, its nuclear test range at Pokhran, and its unknown uranium weapons component facility. The report acknowledges that the RMP may produce "a limited amount of highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons" but says "the main purpose of the plant appears to be to make enriched uranium for naval reactors and possibly a small amount of enriched uranium for civil research reactors." Hence, safeguards should be applied here too.

As for the 40-MW CIRUS research reactor — which, Dr. Albright has previously claimed, produced as much as 25 per cent of the fissile material for India's nuclear weapons — the ISIS report says that if India keeps it off the civilian list, this will "directly violate its commitment to Canada," which supplied the reactor in 1960 under a "peaceful use" pledge.

© Copyright 2000 - 2005 The Hindu

No comments: