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UPDATE 1-IAEA approves extra nuclear inspection pact for India
March 3, 2009 / 7:06 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 1-IAEA approves extra nuclear inspection pact for India

* IAEA approves extra India inspections deal

* Some IAEA members wanted stronger safeguards

* Deal key to India’s nuclear imports from U.S.

(adds quotes from protocol document, paragraphs 8-10, 19)

By Mark Heinrich

VIENNA, March 3 (Reuters) - U.N. nuclear watchdog governors on Tuesday approved a deal allowing extra inspections of India’s atomic industry, a condition of a U.S.-led deal allowing New Delhi to import nuclear technology after a 33-year freeze.

Passage of an “Additional Protocol” somewhat expanding the International Atomic Energy Agency’s monitoring rights in India came a month after New Delhi signed a basic nuclear safeguards accord opening its civilian nuclear plants to U.N. inspections.

The 31-page protocol would broadly give IAEA inspectors more information on India’s nuclear-related exports, imports and source material, diplomats familiar with the issue said.

But some members of the 35-nation IAEA Board of Governors joined the consensus vote only with reluctance, they said.

Sceptics felt that while heightened U.N. safeguards were a net gain for a country outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), they could have been stronger had there been more time for negotiations, they added.

“Switzerland, Ireland, Cuba and South Africa protested that the agreement was handed to the board only two days ago, too late to thoroughly assess whether it will really contribute to disarmament,” one diplomat in the closed-door meeting said.

“It doesn’t because there are no provisions to ensure India cannot divert into its military nuclear sector nuclear materials and know-how it obtains abroad for the civilian sector.”

The protocol, entitled “Nuclear Verification -- The Conclusion of Safeguards Agreements and Additional Protocols” -- would give inspectors wider access to India’s programme but not as much as in countries that have signed the NPT.

“The agency will not mechanistically or systematically seek to verify information obtained. Verification activities in question are not linked to quantitative yardsticks like inventories of nuclear materials,” the pact’s preamble said.

“The frequency and intensity of (IAEA checks) shall be kept to the minimum consistent” with the aim of improving safeguards.

SUPPLIERS LIFT NUCLEAR BAN ON INDIA

IAEA oversight was stipulated when the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group agreed in September to lift a ban on nuclear trade with India, imposed after its first nuclear test in 1974 and for its refusal to join the NPT.

India, Pakistan and Israel are the only countries never to have never signed the NPT.

Washington pushed through the NSG “waiver” because this was indispensable to implementing its own 2005 nuclear cooperation pact to supply India with nuclear technology.

U.S. officials said the deal, a major plank in former U.S. President George W. Bush’s foreign policy, would forge a strategic partnership with India, help it meet soaring energy demand, reduce fossil fuel emissions linked to climate change, and open up a nuclear market worth billions of dollars.

Disarmament advocates complained that it undercut the NPT, meant to prevent the spread and production of nuclear weapons.

They fear Indian access to foreign nuclear materials could allow it to divert more of its limited indigenous supplies to its bomb programme and drive historical foe Pakistan into another arms race.

After its first nuclear test in 1974, India conducted a series of nuclear tests in 1998, prompting rival Pakistan to follow suit within weeks.

IAEA safeguards require India to open up 14 of 22 reactors to inspections by 2014. New Delhi must still specify which reactors will come under inspection, an Indian government official said last month.

India’s Additional Protocol lists some 100 nuclear-use materials and hardware to come under monitoring including entire reactors and heavy-water plants, reactor-core graphite, coolant and vacuum pumps, parts for fuel-producing centrifuges, spectrometers, uranium metal products and laser systems. (Editing by Ralph Boulton)

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