New Delhi: India and the US could be close to clinching the nuke deal as positive signals emerge from Washington on India's rights to reprocess spent nuclear fuel. According to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's assessment, talks on the issue have entered the "last leg".
The two countries are close to ironing out differences on storage of spent fuel after three days of talks on the 123 agreement.
According to reports, the US has agreed to India's offer to set up a dedicated spent fuel storage facility. This development comes after National Security Advisor M K Narayanan held several rounds of discussions with his US counterpart Stephen Hadley on Thursday. Both Narayanan and foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon also met vice president Dick Cheney after the talks.
Reports say that the two sides have removed major roadblocks to implement the landmark agreement while the crucial issue is now to incorporate this understanding in the text of the 123 agreement. Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman of the State Department, said that while no dramatic breakthrough was expected immediately, the two sides have made "good progress" in sorting out the differences.
State Department Spokesperson Sean McCormack said, "well, we hope that's in fact the case. The United States has expressed its commitment and expressed its desire to reach an agreement. And we're sure that the Indian government wants to reach an agreement. The question is a matter of when and the timing of it.”
"Certainly, there's no time like the present to reach a deal. We had some preliminary discussions yesterday. There are going to be some more discussions with Nick Burns and Richard Boucher. So we'll see. I think we'll have a better idea, towards the end of the day, as to where we are," he added.
What is spent fuel?
|Nuclear fuel is usually used in a reactor for many years. It then loses its ability to efficiently create energy. This is called spent fuel.|
|Even after it cannot generate energy, spent fuel continues to emit radiation. This is harmful to health. And it takes thousands of years for the spent fuel to decay to be considered safe.|
|Nuclear fuel is generally used in a reactor for a number of years before losing its ability to efficiently create energy. As a nuclear reactor operates, the fission process creates energy to generate electricity.|
|During this process, the uranium is being used up and fission by-products accumulate and interfere with efficiency until the fuel can no longer effectively produce energy. At this point, the used fuel is said to be "spent" and is replaced. Normally, the spent nuclear fuel looks very similar to how it did when it first went into the reactor.|
|Institute of Management & Technology, Ghaziabad (IMT)|
|Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai (NMIMS)|
|Fission by-products created within the spent nuclear fuel continue to emit radiation until they achieve a stable form. This emission of energy is called radioactivity. Because of potential harm from radiation, the spent nuclear fuel must be stored in shielded basins of water, or in dry storage vaults or containers until its radioactivity decreases naturally decays to safe levels. This can take days or thousands of years, depending on the type of fuel.|