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India, IAEA to sign pact on Feb 2

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Areva to supply 300 tonnes uranium to for setting up two nuclear reactors.

Taking another step towards integration into the nuclear world order, India will sign an inspection agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on February 2. India will be able to source nuclear fuel from foreign suppliers once its reactors are put under the IAEA safeguards after the agreement.

Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) officials in Mumbai said India’s Ambassador Saurab Kumar would sign the agreement, which would be later ratified by New Delhi.

The signing of the India-specific safeguards agreement comes in sequential steps after the September 2008 Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver allowing India to access nuclear fuel for its civilian reactors from the international market and the October 2008 signing of the 123 Agreement or the Indo-US nuclear deal.

India’s chief negotiator Ravi Grover is in Vienna to finalise the deal and he is also working on the mandatory additional protocol, according to DAE officials.

Currently, India’s six reactors — units 1 and 2 of Tarapur in Maharashtra, units 1 and 2 at Kota and two units at Koodankulam — are under the IAEA’s safeguards agreements. Eight more reactors will follow after the February 2 deal.

Meanwhile, French Ambassador to India, Jerome Bonnafont, today said in New Delhi that French company Areva would supply 300 tonnes uranium to India for setting up two nuclear reactors.

“After we signed the nuclear agreement with India on September 30 (2008) in Paris, discussions started between Areva and the Department of Atomic Energy and Nuclear Power Corporation of India on several cooperations, including providing uranium to India, and the contract will be implemented within a few weeks,” he was quoted as saying.

When asked if France would take back uranium for reprocessing, he said, “We are going to enter into long-term agreement for the delivery of uranium for European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs). The question of reprocessing, which is complex, comes later”

“India has reprocessing facilities, which will be put under the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, but if India does not have enough capabilities, we will consider reprocessing of fuel,” he added.

A former Indian diplomat said yesterday that some NSG members were trying to devise ways to deny India reprocessing rights. Reprocessing rights are crucial to sustain India’s three-stage nuclear programme, especially the fast breeder reactors.

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