The Times of India - 20 Dec 09

Prof. Robert B. Laughlin
Department of Physics
Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305
(Copied 3 Jan 10)

India Firm on Right to Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing

December 20, 2009

PUNE: Srikumar Banerjee, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), said here on Saturday that the country was firm on securing the right to reprocessing nuclear fuel under the Indo-US civil nuclear deal. The deal is in the final stages of getting operationalised.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the College of Engineering, Pune's (CoEP) second global reunion, Banerjee said, "We have to be sure that we have the right to reprocess spent fuel, which will be generated by the nuclear reactors."

Referring to the Indo-US negotiations for a reprocessing agreement, Banerjee said, "We are working on this aspect." Negotiations on the reprocessing deal began in July. Among other things, the reprocessing agreement is critical to enabling American companies enter the civil nuclear sector in India.

Under the 123 Agreement, the US had agreed that India will set up a national facility dedicated to reprocessing safeguarded nuclear material under the International Atomic Energy Agency.

However, both sides had to agree on the "arrangements and procedures" under which reprocessing would take place in this new facility. "We have given them (the US) the possibility of two sites (for the reprocessing facility)," Banerjee said.

The AEC chief added: "After the Indo-US civil nuclear deal and the opening up of other countries for nuclear cooperation, India is progressing steadily with her objective of sourcing uranium from foreign nations for powering the country's nuclear reactors. The fuel will have to be utilised for the safeguarded reactors."

Referring to the nuclear power generation plan, Banerjee said, "All ongoing efforts are directed towards meeting the target of 60,000 mega watt (MW) capacity for nuclear power by 2032. This will be 10 per cent of the 6,00,000 MW installed capacity that has been projected from all sources by 2032 in the country."

As of now, nuclear power accounts for a three per cent share in the overall power being generated from different sources in India, he said. Taking this share up to 10 per cent by 2032 involves a slew of measures, including the setting up of imported light water reactors that are intended to add 20,000 MW capacity.

Banerjee said the department of atomic energy was in the process of setting up energy parks that will have more reactors. Each of these parks could have a 6 x 1,000 MW or even 6 x 1,650 MW capacity. The energy parks are coming up at Chhayamithi Virdi in Gujarat, Jaitapur in Maharashtra and Kowada in Andhra Pradesh, among other places, he said.

The AEC chief strongly disagreed with the suggestion that the recent incident at the Kaiga nuclear plant in Karnataka, where some employees were affected by radioactive elements after drinking contaminated water from a water cooler, was a result of sabotage. "The Kaiga incident was not sabotage. In fact, I am not sure how one can define sabotage in an incidents like this," he said, adding, "An inquiry into the incident is in progress."

On the raging debate within the Indian scientific community over the results of the Pokhran-II nuclear tests, Banerjee said that barring certain classified information, the country had released all details about the experiment. "There is no difference in the claims made then and now," he added.