Near East and South Asia Review
India'a recent announcement that it would begin reprocessing spent nuclear fuel at Tarapur is in part an attempt to force the United State* toifnuclear cooperation relationship with New Delhi.
INDIA: THE DECISION TO REPROCESS NUCLEAR FUEL ff^
India's recent announcement that it would beginspent nuclear fuel at Tarapur is in part an attempt to force the United States toif necessary,nuclear cooperation relationship with New Delhi. The reprocessing decision appears to have been tinted to catch the new US administration off guard and to force it to address the issue before it can settle into the routine left by its predecessors. Recent diplomatic exchanges indicate that India has become frustrated by what it perceives as the inability or unwillingness of the United states to acteliable and responsible nuclear supplier, while New Delhi's patience with US "foot-dragging" is wearing thin, the Indians would like toull break if US-imposed retroactivecan be lifted.
The Basis for Disagreement
India and the United States are at loggerheads over two agreements that form the core of their nuclear
uclear cooperation agreement that the
United States must provide timely and regular shipments of low enriched uranium for two reactors at the Tarapur atomic power station. The agreement runs for the projected life of theears) and forbids the use of non-US-origin fuel.
subsequent agreement reached when India began
building its power reactor fuel reprocessing plant in the Tarapur complex which stipulates that India and the United States willjoint determination" that safeguards can be properly applied before reprocessing can begin. This plant was completedut has not been put into regular operation because there has been no such determination.
India believes that the United States ia not living up to the agreements. Uranium shipments have becomesince Indiapeaceful" nuclear device Indiana strenuously object to the reatrictions imposed by the US Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act (KNPA)3 and regard the additional conditions imposedetroactive attempt to undermine their nuclear program by changing the terms of3 contract. ecent arrangement, the administration must conault with Congreas before Bending the last of two shipmanta due India, and India is annoyed by the uncertaintiea raised by Congressional involvement. The Indiana are upset that the United Statea is delaying the ehipment until it ia needed to ensure Tarapur's continued operation. They resent that under the terms of the NNPA, India must place its nuclear facilities under full-scope safeguards to receive uranium shipments arranged after the pending one.
India has been piqued by the US Government'a failure to act on India's longstanding requestsointon reprocessing, and it is skeptical ofassurancesoint determination is under "active review." India considers tha spent fuel from Tarapur as belonging to India and believes that tha reasonoint determination is to ensure that safeguards are applied in any reprocessing operation. India ia prepared to maintain the aafeguarda by an agreexaent with theAtomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and does not believeove to reprocess without the joint determinationiolation of the Indo-US agreement.
The Reprocessing Decision
The recent decision to begin reprocessing is aone--emanating from Hew Dalhi, notpsychological overtones. India's objective isthe United States into releasing the secondfual for Tarapur. roader context, however,is an ingredient in India's desire to achievenuclear fuel cycleisible andprogram. The Indiana wont to assert theirright tolant thay built themaelveabut- .if
Independence in nuclear matters would enhance Indian prestige at home and among other developing nations, in addition to freeing India, which deplores signs ofand national dependency, from relyina on undependable foreign su
technical reasons given for India's "need" to reprocess are lesc compelling, at least at present. The Tarapur fuel situation is not critical; the power station can run for another couple of years on fuel currently available. Despite the claims of some Indian scientists, there is no need for additional storage space for'spent fuel. The power station is the only one in India that requires the use of slightly enriched uranium. The backbone of the Indian nuclear power program is the heavy-water moderated, natural uranium Candu reactor. The Indians would accept the economic dislocation that would occur if they were forced to shut down Tarapur for lack of US-enriched uranium. The power station can runixed oxide fuel (uranium oxide and plutonium oxide) that would be producedpecial fabrication plant using plutonium derived from reprocessing spent fuel. lant would have to be built and the technology perfected re this vita; step can be accomplished. amaaaaaaaaaamTJ
Although the threat haa bean made, there has been no decision in New Delhi to declare the United States in default,
.ike to see the relationship continue, but without the uncertainties that have marred it in recent years. If the agreement is to be dissolved, New Delhi would want Washington to do it, thus sparing India the onus ofthe contract. In performing the initial reprocessing, the Indians are planning to use epent fuel from another reactor, which is not of US origin and over which the United States has no legal control, thus preempting the
that Washington can declare them in violation.
Putting the reprocessing plant into operation wouldhallenge to the US position, but the Indians believe
arapur station fuel is un-unilaterally abrogates the indo-us
it would not constitute an open violation of the agreement. india will use spent fuel from the rajasthan atomic power plant, not from tarapur. for reprocessing. this fuel is not of us oriain, but it is safeauarded under i
india's decision to reprocess does not necessarilyove toward nuclear weapono development, and there is no question of removing the reprocessing operation from existing safeguards* rajasthan fuel is safeguarded, and the indians would find the onus oflant out of safeguards unacceptable. india recently received andetermination that technical arrangements to apply safe* guards can befurther indication that india will do nothing to arouse international doubts aboutimrpfui intent of its nuclear urogram.