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IAEA approves more inspection steps for India ahead of N-imports

IAEAThe Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has recently approved additional nuclear inspection measures for India, which the country has yet to ratify before it can receive imports for its growing nuclear energy sector.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog’s approval fulfills a condition of the Indo-US deal allowing New Delhi to import nuclear technology after a 33-year freeze. The Additional Protocol will grant IAEA inspectors greater powers to probe India’s nuclear exports, in addition to the standard inspections envisioned in the nuclear safeguards agreement that India has signed but not yet brought into force. Passage of the “Additional Protocol” somewhat expanding IAEA’s monitoring rights in India came a month after New Delhi signed a basic nuclear safeguards accord opening its civilian nuclear plants to U.N. inspections.

The 31-page protocol would broadly give IAEA inspectors more information on India’s nuclear-related exports, imports and source material, diplomats familiar with the issue said.

India’s Additional Protocol lists some 100 nuclear-use materials and hardware to come under monitoring including entire reactors and heavy-water plants, reactor-core graphite, coolant and vacuum pumps, parts for fuel-producing centrifuges, spectrometers, uranium metal products and laser systems.

IAEA safeguards require India to open up 14 of 22 reactors to inspections by 2014. New Delhi must still specify which reactors will come under inspection, an Indian government official said last month.

In September last year, the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group agreed to lift a ban on nuclear trade with India, imposed after its first nuclear test in 1974 and for its refusal to join the NPT.

Washington pushed through the NSG “waiver” because this was indispensable to implementing its own 2005 nuclear cooperation pact to supply India with nuclear technology.

U.S. officials said the deal, a major plank in former U.S. President George W. Bush’s foreign policy, would form a strategic partnership with India, help it meet soaring energy demand, reduce fossil fuel emissions linked to climate change, and open up a nuclear market worth billions of dollars.