Bush Nuclear Deal with India Meets Congressional Disapproval

WASHINGTON, DC, July 20, 2005 (ENS) - President George W. Bush signed an agreement Monday with the Prime Minister of India to help the nuclear armed country develop its civilian nuclear power capability. But a measure passed by members of the House of Representatives Tuesday disapproves that arrangement for India, which is not a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

During their meeting at the White House on Monday, President Bush told India's Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, that as a responsible state with advanced nuclear technology, India should acquire the same benefits and advantages as other such states. The two leaders signed a joint statement to lift a ban on sale of U.S. civilian nuclear technology to India.


President George W. Bush stands with India's Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh during the playing of the national anthems on the South Lawn of the White House. July 18, 2005. (Photo by Carolyn Drake courtesy The White House)
Recognizing India's continued unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing, President Bush expressed his appreciation to the Prime Minister over India's "strong commitment" to preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and said he will "work to achieve full civil nuclear energy cooperation with India" as it realizes its goals of promoting nuclear power and achieving energy security."

Under the agreement, India would be allowed to buy nuclear fuel and reactor components from the United States and other countries. In exchange India would allow international inspections and safeguards on its civilian nuclear program, but not its nuclear-weapons arsenal, and not detonate any more weapons tests.

In May 1998, the United States placed sanctions on India, the world's most populous democracy, after its second round of nuclear tests, but waived them after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in return for support in the war on terrorism.

U.S. law bans export of technology that could support a nuclear program of any country that has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and India has not signed it.

On Tuesday, the same day that Prime Minister Singh addressed a joint session of the House and Senate, a bipartisan energy panel of the U.S. House of Representatives adopted a measure forbidding export of nuclear technology to India and other countries not party to the nonproliferation treaty and which have detonated a nuclear device.

The amendment's author, Representative Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said, “Selling nuclear materials to India is a dangerous proposition and bad nonproliferation policy."

“Why should the United States sell controlled nuclear goods to India? asked Markey. "We cannot play favorites, breaking the rules of the non-proliferation treaty, to favor one nation at the risk of undermining critical international treaties on nuclear weapons.”


U.S. Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts (Photo credit unknown)
“Now that Russia and China have agreed to adhere to the Nuclear Supplier Groups requirements, the United States is going to ignore the rules?" Markey asked. "What will Russia say when they want to supply more nuclear materials or technology to Iran? You can be sure that Pakistan will demand equal treatment. Will the Bush administration soon be announcing nuclear cooperation with them?"

The House Members of the Energy Conference Committee approved Markey's measure. Although the measure received broad support from both Republican and Democratic Members House Energy Bill Conference Committee, the measure was rejected by Senate Conference Conferees during a voice vote.

“Unlike our friends on the Senate side, we don’t have any ability to advise and consent on treaties,” Congressman Joe Barton, a Texas Republican who chairs the Conference Committee. “This is a way for the House to send a signal on this particular treaty.”

The House Members vowed to continue press for action to address their concerns over the exportation of nuclear materials to non-nuclear states.

President Bush told the Indian leader that he will seek agreement from Congress to adjust U.S. laws and policies to allow the export of nuclear technology to India.

In addition, Bush promised, the United States will work with friends and allies to adjust international regimes to enable full civil nuclear energy cooperation and trade with India, including but not limited to expeditious consideration of fuel supplies for safeguarded nuclear reactors at Tarapur.

Tarapur, near Mumbai, is the location of India's first nuclear power plant, two boiling water power reactors connected to the grid in 1969.

India's other power reactors are pressurised heavy water type reactors which use natural uranium as fuel and heavy water as moderator.


India's Tarapur nuclear reactors near Mumbai, or Bombay. (Photo courtesy India Department of Atomic Energy)
Now India is building pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs) at Tarapur. Construction work is in progress, and the two units are scheduled for completion by year 2006-2007. Fuel for these reactors is among the items that President Bush said he will assist India to acquire.

At the White House, the two leaders discussed India's plans to develop its civilian nuclear energy program as a way to that India can meet "growing global energy demands in a cleaner and more efficient manner." They see nuclear power as a cleaner alternative to fossil fuel power generation, although India's nuclear waste storage problem has not been resolved.

At the National Press Club today, Prime Minister Singh said, "Our current dependence on hydrocarbons will have to be diversified in favour of a broader energy mix." An expanded nuclear power program is a key part of that mix.

A nuclear power nation since the late 1960s, India now has 21 nuclear power reactors in nine locations with three more under construction.

The three stage strategy adopted by the Indian nuclear power program is to use the country's modest uranium and vast thorium resources. All reactors now in operation are fueled with uranium, and produce electricity and plutonium.

This first stage is being followed by a second stage with plutonium fueled fast breeder reactors, producing electricity and more plutonium and uranium 233 from thorium. Ground has been broken on the first fast breeder reactor, which is scheduled for completion in 2011.

The third stage of reactors will be based on thorium cycle producing electricity and more uranium 233.

At his meeting with President Bush Tuesday, Prime Minister Singh expressed interest in the international nuclear fusion project ITER and a willingness to contribute. This project, newly sited in France, would fuse atomic nucleii under enormous temperature and pressure to produce the same type of energy that powers the Sun and stars.


President Bush and Prime Minister Singh raise their glasses in a toast at the official dinner in the White House State Dining Room. July 18, 2005 (Photo by Carolyn Drake courtesy The White House)
The President promised to consult with the U.S.'s ITER partners - the European Union, China, Russia, South Korea and Japan - about considering India's participation.

Bush also promised to consult with the other participants in the Generation IV International Forum with a view toward India's inclusion. Ten countries are working together in the Forum to lay the groundwork for a fourth generation nuclear reactor that could be deployed by 2030. Six technologies are under consideration at: http://gif.inel.gov/roadmap/

In January 2004, the United States and India agreed to expand cooperation in three areas - civilian nuclear activities, civilian space programs, and high-technology trade. In addition, the two countries agreed to expand their dialogue on missile defense.

These areas of cooperation are designed to progress through a series of reciprocal steps that build on each other in an agreement known as the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) initiative.

The State Department says these efforts have enabled the United States to make modifications to U.S. export licensing policies that will foster cooperation in commercial space programs and permit certain exports to power plants at safeguarded nuclear facilities.

Building on what he called "the strengthened nonproliferation commitments" undertaken under the NSSP initiative, Bush promised to remove several Indian organizations from the Department of Commerce's Entity List. Shipments of commodities from the United States to those entities on the list are forbidden without the issuance of a validated license from the Commerce Department.

Prime Minister Singh said that India would reciprocally agree that it would be ready to assume the same responsibilities and practices and acquire the same benefits and advantages as other leading countries with advanced nuclear technology, such as the United States.

These responsibilities and practices consist of identifying and separating civilian and military nuclear facilities and programs in a phased manner and filing a declaration regarding its civilian facilities with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The Prime Minister agreed to refrain from transfer of uranium enrichment and reprocessing technologies to countries that do not have them and to support international efforts to limit their spread.

Singh said he would secure nuclear materials and technology through comprehensive export control legislation and through harmonization and adherence to Missile Technology Control Regime and Nuclear Suppliers Group guidelines.

The two leaders agreed to establish a working group to undertake on a phased basis in the months ahead the necessary actions mentioned above to fulfill these commitments. They agreed to review this progress when the President visits India in 2006.

President Bush and Prime Minister Singh reiterated their commitment that their countries would play a leading role in international efforts to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, chemical, biological and radiological weapons.