Chinese N-reactors for Pakistan worry India

Chinese N-reactors for Pakistan worry India

"We have expressed our concerns at the appropriate place. If China and Pakistan do that within the exiting international regime, they can. We have protested citing the previous exchanges of nuclear technology illegally particularly through Abdul Qadeer Khan (Pakistan's rogue nuclear scientist). Nobody has addressed that," Chavan told reporters here, around 50 km from Chennai,

Speaking on the sidelines of silver jubilee celebrations of the Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) and Radio Metallurgy Laboratory (RML), he said India had serious concerns about something like that - transfer of nuclear technology illegally - happening.

He said India had established a good track record in the nuclear field whereas Pakistan does not have such a record. Queried about India allowing private domestic or foreign companies to operate nuclear power stations, amending the Atomic Energy Act, he said: "At the moment the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government does not find any need to change the law.

"Right now money is not an issue for allowing foreign companies as nuclear power plant operators. We are inviting domestic government owned companies as minority partners for the Nuclear Power Corporation of India."

He said the government does not want anybody to walk out of the plant by simply shutting it down one day as there are issues like proper handling of nuclear waste. He said the government was also looking at providing more autonomy to the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).

"There is an internal debate going on as to the shape of additional autonomy that the AERB should be given," he said. He said India was certainly interested in buying uranium mines overseas so as to overcome the shortage.

"We are looking at African countries to buy uranium mines adopting the ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Corp) model," he said. ONGC has set up subsidiary ONGC Videsh to acquire oil fields abroad.

According to Chavan, the government was in the process of drafting the rules for the recently passed Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act. On the reservations expressed by the US on the act, he said: "Americans expressed concern about right to recourse. But it has been adequately explained. We explained what our position is. After the rules get framed, it should get settled down."

Queried about the import of nuclear reactors and India's three phased nuclear power programme, Chavan said: "The government is committed to the three phased nuclear power programme. The import of light water reactors are proposed to meet the power and fuel demand."

The utilisation of large reserves of thorium available in India requires fast breeder reactors, Chavan added. Queried about importing nuclear reactors from one or two vendors at a cheaper rate by assuring volumes instead of buying from multiple vendors, he said: "In the first phase of imports four companies will be supplying to India.

"During the second round of imports we will look at other commercial considerations (localisation of components) and reactor systems which are more fuel economical and safer like the ones having multiple redundancies. "All imported reactors should get the approval of the national regulatory authority," he added.

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