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Monday, October 4, 2010

U.S. Nuclear Cooperation with India: Issues for Congress

Paul K. Kerr
Analyst in Nonproliferation

India, which has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and does not have International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on all of its nuclear material, exploded a “peaceful” nuclear device in 1974, convincing the world of the need for greater restrictions on nuclear trade. The United States created the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) as a direct response to India’s test, halted nuclear exports to India a few years later, and worked to convince other states to do the same. India tested nuclear weapons again in 1998. However, President Bush announced July 18, 2005, he would “work to achieve full civil nuclear energy cooperation with India” and would “also seek agreement from Congress to adjust U.S. laws and policies,” in the context of a broader partnership with India.

U.S. nuclear cooperation is governed by the Atomic Energy Act (AEA). P.L. 109-401, which President Bush signed into law on December 18, 2006, provides waivers of several provisions of the AEA (Sections 123 a. (2), 128, and 129). It requires that several steps occur before nuclear cooperation can proceed. On September 10, 2008, President Bush submitted to Congress a written determination that these requirements had been met. That same day, the President submitted the text of the proposed agreement, which had not yet been signed. The President also submitted a written determination (also required by the AEA) “that the performance of the proposed agreement will promote and will not constitute an unreasonable risk to, the common defense and security.” In addition, President Bush submitted several documents, including classified and unclassified versions of a Nuclear Proliferation Assessment Statement, which is required by section 123 of the AEA. The Department of State also submitted a report required by P.L. 109- 401 on various aspects of the agreement.

On September 27, 2008, the House passed H.R. 7081, which approved the agreement. The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations approved identical legislation, S. 3548, September 23. The Senate passed H.R. 7081 October 1. President Bush signed P.L. 110-369 into law October 8. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and India’s External Affairs Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee signed the agreement October 10, and it entered into force December 6, 2008.

U.S. companies have not yet started nuclear trade with India. New Delhi had reportedly insisted that India and the United States conclude an agreement on a reprocessing facility in India before New Delhi would sign contracts with U.S. nuclear firms. However, the countries announced March 29 that they had concluded the agreement. The Administration submitted the subsequent arrangement to Congress May 11. The proposed arrangement shall not take effect if Congress adopts a joint resolution of disapproval.

It is worth noting that U.S. firms will likely be very reluctant to engage in nuclear trade with India if the government does not become party to the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, which has not yet entered into force.

Date of Report: September 22, 2010
Number of Pages: 48
Order Number: RL33016
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