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US offers India bigger global role in N-research
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 8
The US today put India in an elite and small club of nations by offering membership of President George W Bush’s ambitious scheme called Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP).

Only select powers like Russia, the European Union, China and Japan have been offered membership of GNEP.

An American diplomatic source told The Tribune that India had been offered greater global role in nuclear energy research - a new area wherein the American cooperation is not linked to the success or failure of the July 18 Indo-US nuclear agreement.

Indian diplomats, on the other hand, did not seem so sure-footed on this, saying that such things were normally technically correct, but practically it was invariably a different ball game.

The American offer of GNEP membership to India came up during the three-and-a-half-hour long discussion between the American delegation led by US Under Secretary of State for Energy David Garman and the Indian side led by Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran today which were held under the ambit of the newly-launched Indo-US Energy Dialogue.

The Americans offered India intensive cooperation in three specific areas of energy generation: nuclear, hydrogen and clean coal. The Americans conveyed to the Indian side that India was welcome to join several new and big energy-related international consortiums in the energy sector, which would inevitably take the Indian graph higher globally.

The Americans also gave a presentation on GNEP which seeks to develop worldwide consensus on enabling expanded use of economical, carbon-free nuclear energy to meet growing electricity demand. This will use a nuclear fuel cycle that enhances energy security, while promoting non-proliferation.

Washington has turned focus on nuclear energy in a big way after a gap of more than three decades in view of skyrocketing oil prices, which have given a high degree of diplomatic and political leverage to the oil-rich countries.

The following are the key elements of new measures announced by the US to expand the use of nuclear power while reducing the threat of nuclear proliferation:

  • Expand domestic use of nuclear power.
  • Minimise nuclear waste.
  • Demonstrate more proliferation-resistant cycling.
  • Develop advanced nuclear safeguards.

GNEP would achieve its goal by having nations with secure, advanced nuclear capabilities provide fuel services — fresh fuel and recovery of used fuel — to other nations who agree to employ nuclear energy for power generation purposes only. The closed fuel cycle model envisioned by this partnership requires development and deployment of technologies that enable recycling and consumption of long-lived radioactive waste.

The partnership would demonstrate the critical technologies needed to change the way used nuclear fuel is managed - to build recycling technologies that enhance energy security in a safe and environmentally responsible manner, while simultaneously promoting non-proliferation.

The second meeting of the Steering Committee of the India-US Energy Dialogue also considered the following issues, according to the Ministry of External Affairs:

  • A workshop on civil nuclear energy cooperation that will take place in the US later this year building on the successful event in Mumbai in January 2006.
  • Efforts to ensure a strong US participation at the Natural Gas Conference in India in May 2006.
  • Three MoUs to be signed on various aspects of cooperation in the oil and natural gas sector.
  • Priority to be given to US collaboration in drilling for gas hydrates.
  • Pilot projects to be considered in coal preparation and coal liquefaction.
  • A clearing house to be set up for coal bed methane and coal mine methane.
  • A major energy efficiency conference involving industry of both countries to take place in India in mid-2006.
  • Solar-thermal and wind energy to be priorities in the non-conventional energy sector.

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