The Obama administration on Thursday commended a 46-nation nuclear export organization's move to limit sales of nuclear fuel enrichment and reprocessing systems while reaffirming its support for civilian atomic trade with India (see GSN, June 22).
In a two-day annual meeting that wrapped up on Friday, the Nuclear Suppliers Group "agreed to strengthen its guidelines on the transfer of sensitive enrichment and reprocessing technologies," the organization stated (Nuclear Suppliers Group release, June 24).
"The United States welcomes the decision," the White House said in released remarks, adding that the move "establishes agreed criteria that limit allowed transfers only to those nations in compliance with their nonproliferation obligations and that meet agreed standards for nuclear safeguards, safety and security.
"This administration remains committed to ensuring that nations in good standing can have access to peaceful nuclear energy without increasing the risks of nuclear weapons proliferation," the White House added. "This latest step, coupled with the agreement last December to establish an International Atomic Energy Agency nuclear fuel bank, advances the President's nuclear agenda laid out in Prague in 2009 (see GSN, April 6, 2009). It further demonstrates the clear determination of nations to strengthen the international nonproliferation regime and build new frameworks for civil nuclear cooperation" (White House release, June 23).
Separately, the State Department reaffirmed the administration's backing of a bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation deal with India, which possesses nuclear weapons outside the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The export group in 2008 granted a special exception enabling its members to engage in civilian atomic trade with the South Asian state, which in recent years has signed deals allow enabling it to acquire nuclear materials and technology from NSG nations including the United States as well as France and Russia (see GSN, Sept. 8, 2008).
"Nothing about the new enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) transfer restrictions agreed to by NSG members should be construed as detracting from the unique impact and importance of the U.S.-India agreement or our commitment to full civil nuclear cooperation," the State Department said in a press release.
"Efforts in the NSG to strengthen controls on the transfers of ENR are consistent with longstanding U.S. policy that predates the [U.S.-Indian] civil nuclear agreement and have been reaffirmed on an annual basis by the [Group of Eight industrialized nations] for years," it added. "This new guideline reflects a consensus among all NSG members."
"The NSG’s NPT references, including those in the ENR guidelines, in no way detract from the exception granted to India by NSG members in 2008 and in no way reflect upon India’s nonproliferation record," the State Department said.
The statement also reaffirms the administration's support for New Delhi's admission to the Nuclear Suppliers group and three other international export control systems.
"We were pleased that [Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao] led an Indian delegation on an outreach visit to the NSG in The Hague earlier this spring, and were pleased that India’s expression of interest in membership has been an active topic of discussion at the plenary this week," the State Department added (U.S. State Department release, June 23).