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India hopes to restart nuclear talks with Japan soon

Anirban Bhaumik, New Delhi, Jan 26, 2013, DHNS; 1:41 IST

Negotiations were suspended after Fukushima disaster

India is expecting an early restart of the stalled talks for a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Japan, with the new government in Tokyo led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe set to review the erstwhile regime’s decision to move towards bringing down the country’s reliance on atomic energy.

New Delhi and Tokyo are understood to be exploring the possibility of a visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Japan for the annual bilateral summit, which was put off in November due to fast-paced political developments that eventually led to an election and Abe took over as the new prime minister of the East Asian country, succeeding Yoshihiko Noda.

Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party’s professed policy on nuclear energy is significantly different from the one pursued by the erstwhile regime of the Democratic Party of Japan in the aftermath of the mishap at Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant following an earthquake and tsunami along the country’s east coast on March 11, 2011. This has rekindled New Delhi’s hope for resumption of its nuke talks with Tokyo.

Sources told Deccan Herald that India was expecting the restart of nuke talks with Japan this year. As the mishap at the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s plant in Fukushima triggered concerns over the safety of atomic power plants around the world, the erstwhile DPJ Government in Japan had shut down 48 of the country’s 50 operational nuke energy generating facilities.

The previous government had also adopted a policy of gradually bringing down Japan’s reliance on nuclear power to zero by 2030.

The new LDP Government, however, already indicated that it would review the policy. Trade and Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said the reactors would be restarted if they were found safe by the country’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA).

Draft guidelines

The NRA on Monday presented a draft outline of the new safety measures to be adopted to safeguard nuclear power plants against natural disaster or terrorist offensives. The new safety norms would possibly be finalised by July. India also carried out a safety audit of its nuclear power plants after the mishap at Fukushima.

Sources said New Delhi was hopeful about early resumption of India-Japan nuclear cooperation talks, although the new government in Tokyo was expected to tread cautiously and take a few months to move towards reversing the policies of the erstwhile regime.

India and Japan in June 2010 started formal negotiations for a civil nuclear cooperation agreement. But Tokyo’s decision to enter into nuke talks with New Delhi sparked off strong reactions from the anti-nuclear activists in Japan, as India is one of the countries that did not sign the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty.

But Tokyo continued nuke talks with New Delhi and the two countries had altogether three rounds of negotiations. However, with the mishap at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Tokyo suspended the talks.

Japanese atomic power companies have been eyeing the huge nuclear market opened up for the world by the Nuclear Suppliers Group’s 2008 waiver for India. Besides, even the US companies, which partnered with Japanese firms, need a deal between Tokyo and Delhi to be able to sell India nuke technology and equipment with components originating from Japan.

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