IAEA Approves Inspections Plan Required for India-U.S. Nuclear Deal

By Emily Wax
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, August 2, 2008

NEW DELHI, Aug. 1 -- A U.N. nuclear watchdog group on Friday unanimously approved an inspections plan for India's civilian nuclear energy plants, a key step toward completing a controversial nuclear deal between the United States and India.

The International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board granted the approval after meeting in the Austrian capital, Vienna, officials said. The board agreed to regular IAEA surveillance of India's 14 declared civilian nuclear energy plants.

India's government recently survived a confidence vote over the nuclear deal, which sparked protest by Parliament members who believed it tied India's foreign policy too closely to U.S. interests.

The accord would permit the sale of atomic materials and technology for civilian use to India, even though the country has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. India has limited coal and uranium reserves and deepening energy needs. It hopes that by 2050 nuclear power can provide up to 25 percent of its electricity.

This month, the deal will be considered by the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group. Finally, the U.S. Congress will vote on the deal, which some hope will revive the flagging American nuclear industry.

Some experts say India plans to sink up to $100 billion into its civilian nuclear industry over the next 20 years. Several nuclear-armed nations, including the United States, France and Russia, are vying for a chunk of that business.

In a statement, the U.S. ambassador to India, David C. Mulford, called the approval of the deal by the IAEA "a key step towards implementing the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Initiative. We will work vigorously with the Government of India to obtain an India-specific exception in the Nuclear Suppliers Group and final U.S. Congressional approval."

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