India nuke tech pact hits snags

Kyodo News

Japan and India are at odds over provisions attached to a civil nuclear cooperation pact, including one that bans the transfer of “sensitive technology” from Japan that could be used to develop atomic weapons, sources close to the bilateral negotiations said.

The sides are divided over a provision that could give India the ability to reprocess spent nuclear fuel discarded by power plants, which would be built using Japanese machinery and materials, to extract plutonium, the sources said Sunday.

The differences are likely to prolong the negotiations, they said.

India is demanding that the upcoming accord, which will set a legal framework for the peaceful use and transfer of nuclear power technologies, include a clause to ensure the deal’s conclusion will not hamper its nuclear weapons program, a demand Japan has rejected over the previous three rounds of talks, they said.

Japan is seeking to include wording that it would halt nuclear technology transfers if India scraps its current freeze on nuclear tests, they said, adding that India in turn has resisted the inclusion of such wording.

To break the impasse, Japan has proposed that the deal make reference to a 2008 agreement between India and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a group of nuclear supplier countries.

In the accord, India expressed willingness to maintain a freeze on nuclear tests. But it appears the country is now wary of the proposal.

India is also demanding that Japan grant blanket prior consent to India’s right to reprocess spent nuclear fuel from nuclear plants to which Japanese technologies are to be applied. But Tokyo is reluctant to accept the demand.

India also indicated it is unwilling to accept Japan’s reluctance to transfer its uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing technologies, the sources said.

The bilateral talks to conclude the agreement began last June.

The envisioned accord would enable Japanese firms to export nuclear power generation technology and related equipment to India, which plans to build 20 new nuclear plants by 2020.

The talks on the pact have triggered an outcry in Japan from survivors of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who fear the deal would hamper global efforts to realize a world without atomic weapons.