US lifts embargo
The United States has finally conceded India's right to reprocess spent fuel from the Tarapore Atomic Power Station (TAPS). An indication to this effect came recently when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) cleared India's plan to use the locally produced mixed oxide fuel (MOx). India's Atomic Energy Commission will sign an agreement with the IAEA in this connection in March.
"This move is clearly a softening of the US stand," says R R Subramanian, senior research associate at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. "So far, the US had been pressuring India to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty without allowing any concessions." The US, which had originally helped set up TAPS and supplied its fuel, had neither lifted the spent fuel nor conceded India's right to improve upon the fuel. After the expiry of the 20-year Indo-US agreement on fuel supplies to TAPS in October 1993, fuel was bought from France under an interim safeguard agreement with the IAEA.
India will now be able to use MOx -- developed by an indigenous technique that reuses the spent plutonium along with locally mined low-enriched uranium -- as fuel for the light-water Tarapore plant. However, Subramanian warns, "There is danger that the US may use this concession to gain strategic control of India's long-term nuclear plans which aim at self-reliance."