Wednesday, October 08, 2008

United States and India Commercial Nuclear Power Deal

The U.S. Congress on October 1, 2008, gave final approval to an H.R. 7081 United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Nonproliferation Enhancement Act, which facilitates nuclear cooperation between the United States and India [House Vote]. This bill passed in the House of Representatives by roll call vote on Sep 27. The vote was held under a suspension of the rules to cut debate short and pass the bill, needing a two-thirds majority. The totals were 298 Ayes, 117 Nays, 18 Present/Not Voting. This bill passed in the Senate by roll call vote on Oct 1. The totals were 86 Ayes, 13 Nays, 1 Present/Not Voting. President Bush signed the bill into law on October 8, a week after the bill was ratified by the U.S. Congress.

First introduced in the joint statement released by President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on July 18, 2005, the deal lifts a three-decade U.S. moratorium on nuclear trade with India. Center President Norris McDonald attended a White House South Lawn ceremony welcoming Singh (see photo at right).

It provides U.S. assistance to India's civilian nuclear energy program, and expands U.S.-India cooperation in energy and satellite technology. Although India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), India has maintained strict controls on its nuclear technology and has not shared it with any other country. Under the U.S. Atomic Energy Act, which regulates the trade of nuclear material, congressional approval was needed to pass the exemptions to U.S. laws required for the nuclear deal to be implemented. Article I of the treaty says nations that possess nuclear weapons agree not to help states that do not possess weapons to acquire them. In 1968, India refused to sign the NPT, claiming it was biased. In 1974, India tested its first nuclear bomb, showing it could develop nuclear weapons with technology transferred for peaceful purposes. As a result, the United States isolated India for twenty-five years, refusing nuclear cooperation and trying to convince other countries to do the same.

The details of the deal include the following:

India agrees to allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA), the United Nations' nuclear watchdog group, access to its civilian nuclear program. By March 2006, India promised to place 14 of its 22 power reactors under IAEA safeguards permanently. India has promised that all future civilian thermal and breeder reactors shall be placed under IAEA safeguards permanently. India retains the sole right to determine such reactors as civilian, which means that India will not be constrained in any way in building future nuclear facilities, whether civilian or military. Military facilities-and stockpiles of nuclear fuel that India has produced up to now-will be exempt from inspections or safeguards.

India agrees to continue its moratorium on nuclear weapons testing.

India agrees to prevent the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technologies to states that don't possess them and to support international nonproliferation efforts.

U.S. companies will be allowed to build nuclear reactors in India and provide nuclear fuel for its civilian energy program. (An approval by the Nuclear Suppliers Group lifting the ban on India has also cleared the way for other countries to make nuclear fuel and technology sales to India.)
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

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