- Government of India has decided to place four more nuclear reactors under the IAEA safeguards.
- The four reactors will include two Russian-designed Pressurised Light Water Reactors and two Pressurised Heavy Reactors built with Indian technology.
- With the addition of four new nuclear reactors, a total of 26 Indian nuclear facilities will be under IAEA, the nuclear energy watchdog.
- These reactors are eligible to import uranium to generate nuclear energy for civilian purposes.
- As India is not a party to Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it has classified its nuclear facilities into two types under Separation Plan:
a. Unsafeguarded– where domestic uranium can be used anywhere India wants
b. Safeguarded– where imported uranium would be used for civilian nuclear energy.
- Since India’s use of domestic uranium could not anyway be restricted, this was seen as a balance between the benefits of nuclear energy in emission reduction and the risks of increasing India’s military capability.
- A special set of India-specific safeguards, negotiated with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a UN body, ensures that imported uranium was not diverted for military use.
- New reactor plants established with foreign collaboration are automatically placed under the IAEA safeguards.
1. Safeguards and what role they play:
- Safeguards are activities by which the IAEA can verify that a State is living up to its international commitment of not using nuclear programmes for nuclear-weapons purposes.
- The global nuclear NPT and other treaties against the spread of nuclear weapons entrust the IAEA as the nuclear inspectorate.
- Within the world’s nuclear non-proliferation regime, the IAEA’s safeguards system functions as a confidence-building measure, an early warning mechanism, and the trigger that sets in motion other responses by the international community if and when the need arises.
- The safeguards system consists of several, interrelated elements which includes
a. IAEA’s statutory authority to establish and administer safeguards
b. Rights and obligations assumed in safeguards agreements and
c. Additional protocols; and the technical measures implemented pursuant to those agreements.
2. India and IAEA safeguards:
- The IAEA safeguards in the country are implemented in accordance with the agreement entered between Government of India and the IAEA.
- In 2014, India ratified the additional protocol, a commitment given under the Indo-US civil nuclear deal by the government to grant greater access to the IAEA to monitor country’s civilian atomic programme.
- In India, IAEA applies safeguards under agreements that cover only the nuclear material, facilities, equipment and/or materials specified in the agreement.
3. Significance for India:
Given the ambitious scope of its peaceful nuclear energy activities, India could gain considerable benefits through making use of the variety of IAEA’s peer reviews and safety services
- From security point of view:
- Safeguards mechanism ensures extensive safety reviews, pursuant to which necessary measures to further augment safety of India’s operating nuclear power plants.
- Complementing the reviews of nuclear power plants in India by the Nuclear Power Corporation and the regulatory agency, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).
- Enhances collaboration of India and IAEA in nuclear safety matters through the various activities under the IAEA Action Plan for Nuclear Safety.
- Strategic point of view:
- Safeguards mechanism gives credibility to India as a reliable nuclear country in front of international community.
- It makes India’s case of permanent member to Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) strong despite of not signing NPT.
- Safeguards mechanism ensures India’s easy access to nuclear fuel like uranium from uranium exporting countries.
- The government of India has signed several nuclear agreements with countries including the United States, Russia, the UK, South Korea, Canada and Australia. IAEA safeguards act as a surety to these nuclear exporting countries that India will use the nuclear technology and fuel for peaceful purposes.
- It also helps in seeking ground for India’s increased interest in technological co-operation, and influence at the international level.
- Energy point view:
- Nuclear Energy is renewable, reliable and least carbon intensive source of energy. Increasing number of nuclear power plants India and their recognition under IAEA guarantees India a sustainable source of energy in the near future.