India has decided to enhance transparency of its nuclear infrastructure by ratifying an Additional Protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) — a step that in a single stroke can be leveraged to boost energy security and lift international confidence.
With the proposal languishing for over five years, the new government has decided to go ahead with the ratification process, clearing the decks for large imports of nuclear technology, boosting power generation and other civilian purposes. “The move is clearly tied to the new government’s push for enhancing energy security, which is slated to have a significant nuclear component. It will not be surprising if countries such as Japan, France and the United States now enhance the level of their civilian nuclear trade with India,” official sources said.
The Additional Protocol will cover only those facilities which are monitored by the IAEA, and will have no bearing on the non-safeguarded facilities which are used for building weapons.
Sources pointed out that unlike the “model” document that the IAEA has signed with several Non-Nuclear Weapon States, the Additional Protocol inked with India is far less intrusive. “It essentially will ensure the collection of data of India’s nuclear exports, to guarantee that the material is not diverted for unauthorised use,” the sources said.
The new arrangement would also facilitate regular entry and exit of the IAEA personnel by providing them with multi-entry visas, apart from guaranteeing “free communication” generated by the surveillance or measurement devices of the IAEA that are already in place in facilities that are under international safeguards. Analysts point out that the Additional Protocol’s ratification, ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington in September, sends the right signals to the U.S. It fulfils India’s commitment anchored in the Indo-U.S. joint statement of July 2005, which stated unambiguously that New Delhi would conclude “an additional protocol” with the IAEA.
The ratification, concluded last week, also appears well timed with the meeting on Monday in Buenos Aires of the Nuclear Suppliers Group — the elite 45-country club India aspires to join, which controls the global flows of nuclear wherewithal.
The safeguards agreement with the IAEA covered 20 facilities that include the Nuclear Fuel Complex in Hyderabad, Tarapur atomic power plant, Rajasthan Atomic Power Station, both units at Kudankulam, and the Kakrapar Atomic Power Station.