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India, US may seal reprocessing pact in 10-12 days

Source: PTI
November 29, 2009 18:44 IST
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India and the US are expected to finalise a crucial agreement on reprocessing under the landmark civil nuclear deal in 10-12 days, with all but one issue being resolved and negotiations centering on finalising a mutually acceptable legal text.

"We have arrived into the last stage of negotations... only one issue remains, that of finalising the legal text," National Security Adviser M K Narayanan told journalists, while accompanying the prime minister on his return home from a two-nation tour of the US and Trinidad and Tobago.

The two sides were racing against time to conclude the agreement for setting up of dedicated reprocessing facility in India before the meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President Barack Obama in Washington on Tuesday, but could not do so.

The setting up of reprocessing facility under the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards is a key requirement for implementation of the Indo-US civil nuclear deal that was signed last year.

Negotiations had gained momentum after intervention at the highest level, Narayanan said.

The negotiations are almost complete and one more round of discussions will be required to clinch the agreement, "possibly in 10-12 days", sources said.

They said the two sides have resolved two of the key issues that were holding up the conclusion of the agreement.

These were questions like whether one or more dedicated facility should be set up and what should be the type of security for these installations, which will reprocess spent US nuclear fuel.

India has been wanting to set up multiple facilities arguing that it would be beneficial for the US when it starts setting up nuclear plants in India and would be requiring facilities to reprocess more and more spent fuel.

It has now been agreed that one dedicated facility would be set up initially with a provision for more in case the need arose, the sources said.

With regard to security, it has been agreed that the protective mechanism would be on the lines of what exists in the US, the sources said.

The third sticking point was whether reprocessing should be suspended at any time and in what circumstances and conditions. Sources said the two sides are working on a mutually acceptable legal text on it and expressed confidence that it would be sorted out soon.

On whether the dedicated reprocessing facility will be used to reprocess only American fuel, the sources said the commitment is only for US fuel. There should be no problem in reprocessing fuel of other countries but no such request has been made to India by any other country.

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