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Atomic chief allays fears
- Nuclear deal with US won’t hamper Indian programme: Kakodkar

Mumbai, March 9: Atomic energy chief Anil Kakodkar today asserted that the country’s strategic nuclear programme will not be hampered because of the deal sealed last week with the US.

The chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, who had earlier voiced fears that the deal could leave India dependent on imported uranium, said the civilian nuclear agreement was a “win-win” pact.

The agreement offers India access to nuclear technology and reactors. In return, Delhi has to separate its civilian and military nuclear programmes and place the civilian part under international supervision.

The deal still has to be approved by the US Congress and the Nuclear Suppliers Group has to agree to it.

“The deal with the US and the separation plan are steps towards achieving energy independence. We cannot allow our strategic programme to be hampered by it,” Kakodkar told a news conference, his first since US President George W. Bush’s visit last week.

The nuclear scientist said last July’s joint statement with the US was about civil-nuclear cooperation, not about India’s strategic programme. “I can assure you that there is no reduction in our strategic programme. The credible minimum deterrent is intact.”

Kakodkar underlined that the deal would ensure uninterrupted supply of nuclear fuel for India’s eight under-construction light and heavy water reactors and future facilities.

“The rate at which uranium was being used in nuclear plants was higher than the rate of production of uranium. Our nuclear power programme has progressed at a faster rate with a reactor being built in less than five years.

“Due to this there is a slight mismatch in demand-supply of uranium, but it is a short-term mismatch,” he told the conference at the office of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.

“Efforts to double uranium capacity are on,” he added.

Kakodkar was, however, non-committal on a time frame for when and which nuclear reactors would be placed under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.

“We have broadly identified which would be placed under safeguards but have not decided on the sequence. It is a complex matter but we would do it pretty soon,” he said.

On nuclear energy targets, he said “we are on course” for the department of atomic energy projection of 20,000-mw capacity by 2020. The deal with the US will “help us exceed the target”, he added.

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