With the Singh government surviving yesterday’s no-confidence motion in the Indian Parliament, India is one step closer to gaining access to civilian nuclear reactors and fuel that would allow it to embark on its own nuclear renaissance. The civil nuclear cooperation agreement, for which Washington and New Delhi inked a bilateral “123 Agreement” last summer, still must cross several hurdles, including completion of a safeguards agreement with the IAEA, consensus support from the 45-nation Nuclear Supplier’s Group, and approval from the U.S. Congress. The agreement would end a 35 year trade moratorium on the transfer of civilian nuclear technology and plants imposed against India.
But it is not just India that will get the boost, so will U.S. manufacturers. India has six plants under construction, ten firmly planned, and extensive plans for the future. This agreement will help give U.S. companies access to this huge market. That is precisely what America’s developing nuclear industry needs.
America’s access to the burgeoning international nuclear markets is critical. Although the United States hasn’t built a reactor in over three decades, its extensive national laboratory and university system makes it a global leader in nuclear R & D. Furthermore, while countries like France, Russia, and Japan may have been growing their nuclear manufacturing capacity, the U.S. was perfecting nuclear operations at its 104 power reactors (of the world’s 439).
The result is that American technology and know-how could be a vital part of the international nuclear renaissance. And agreements like this one with India assure that these technologies will be available to bring about safer reactors, proliferation-resistant fuels, and new methods for managing nuclear waste. This will lead to growth throughout the American nuclear industry, including in the manufacturing sector, which the U.S. once dominated.
Once the IAEA board of governors approves a safeguards agreement with India (they meet to discuss the issue on August 1ST), the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) must come to a consensus on allowing civilian nuclear trade with India. The U.S. Congress then must also ratify the U.S-India 123 agreement that was negotiated last August.
Tomorrow the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs will discuss the Nonproliferation Regime in an Era of Nuclear Renaissance.; Heritage Research Fellow Jack Spencer will be testifying, which can be seen here.