By: Jill Kincaid
After three decades of attempting to restrain India’s nuclear activities, historic legislation has been passed, and will probably be signed by the President, creating a dramatic initiative on US/India nuclear cooperation. One of the last orders of business of the 109th Congress was to pass the act allowing nuclear cooperation in a civil capacity with India. The final bill, named the “Henry J. Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006” was passed on December 9, 2006.
The bill will allow the President to waive provisions of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 assuming that certain conditions are met by India. These conditions include the negotiation and implementation of a nuclear cooperation agreement between the two countries.
The implications could be great for US and other companies who are already in discussions with Indian officials in preparations for the new Indian market. The Indian government anticipates boosting its civil nuclear capacity in the range of 50,000 watts in the coming 20-25 years. This will create opportunities for companies in the nuclear power market worldwide.
The legislation that has hindered India/US cooperation in the past 30 years stemmed from India’s detonation of a nuclear test in 1974 and India’s claims that the Non-Proliferation Treaty was discriminatory. After a multitude of meetings between US and Indian officials over the past several years, the US decided that the time was right to relax the regulations if India agreed to a number of conditions. These include the agreement to not detonate another nuclear weapon. Another “deal-breaker” would be if the US determines that the new cooperation is benefiting India ’s weapons program.
If India meets the conditions set forth by the United States, controls on nuclear-related exports to India will, in all likelihood, be relaxed. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy could allow transfers of nuclear reactors, technology, and related equipment to India. The conditions are complex and may take some time to complete so it may be quite a while until nuclear cooperation can actually begin.