US-India 2nd round nuke fuel talks in Vienna this week

Last Updated: Monday, October 5, 2009 - 20:21

Washington: The US and India will hold the
second round of talks on reprocessing spent nuclear fuel in
Vienna this week, with officials hoping to complete the
negotiations much before the one year time limit under the
historic Indo-US civilian nuclear deal.

The first round of talks were held in Vienna in July
this year during which, informed sources told a news agency, both India
and the US "surprised" each other by coming out with draft
proposals which could advance the completion of negotiations
by several months.

Officials hope to complete the negotiations much before
the one year time limit under the 123 Agreement that was
signed on October 8 last year.

The American delegation for talks in Vienna this week is
being led by Richard Stratford, Director of the Office of
Nuclear Energy Affairs in the State Department and
Washington`s points man for nuclear negotiations with India.

If everything goes well, the negotiations could even be
ready to be announced during the state visit of Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh to the United States in late November, sources
said.

If that happens, it would be one of the fastest
negotiations of this nature, they said.

India has been seeking speedy negotiations of
reprocessing arrangements.

"We are looking at the speedy negotiations of
reprocessing arrangements to facilitate this process," Indian
Ambassador to the US Meera Shankar said in May this year.

"Both sides have agreed to commence this process and
have identified their nodal points. So we expect to pursue
this very expeditiously," Shankar had then said.

The 123 Agreement on bilateral nuclear cooperation gives
New Delhi prior consent to reprocess.

However, it stipulates that this right would come into
effect only when India establishes a new national facility
dedicated to reprocessing safeguarded nuclear material under
the safeguards of International Atomic Energy Agency and
reaches an agreement with the US on "arrangements and
procedures under which such reprocessing... will take place in
this new facility".

On February 3 this year, the then Foreign Secretary Shiv
Shankar Menon, wrote to the Under Secretary for Political
Affairs William Burns, invoking the provisions of the 123
Agreement with a formal request to negotiate the "arrangements
and procedures" under which American spent fuel would be
reprocessed in India.

The Department of Atomic Energy also sent a similar
formal request to Richard Stratford. The United States
acknowledged the request.

Bureau Report



First Published: Monday, October 5, 2009 - 20:21

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