IAEA Approves India Additional Protocol

Peter Crail

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) March 3 approved an additional protocol to India's safeguards agreement, ostensibly providing the agency with greater authority to monitor India's civilian nuclear activities. New Delhi, which is not a member of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), reached an "India-specific" agreement with the agency last year to place some of its nuclear facilities under safeguards while other facilities remain available for use for India's nuclear weapons efforts. (See ACT, September 2008.) That agreement paved the way for the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to adopt an exemption for sharing nuclear technology with India. (See ACT, October 2008.)

Although the additional protocol is ordinarily a voluntary measure, U.S. legislation adopted in 2006 stipulated that India must make "substantial progress toward concluding an additional protocol consistent with IAEA principles, practices, and policies that would apply to India's civil nuclear program" before the United States could engage in nuclear trade with India.

The Indian parliament must ratify the protocol for it to enter into force. There are currently 90 countries with such protocols in effect. The IAEA and the United States and many other countries have sought to make the protocol the new standard for safeguards. Washington's additional protocol entered into force in January.

Just as the IAEA concluded an India-specific safeguards arrangement with New Delhi to account for its weapons-related nuclear activities, which are not to be safeguarded, India's additional protocol is markedly different from the 1997 Model Additional Protocol that serves as the rubric for such agreements.

According to a Feb. 25 IAEA note to the agency's Board of Governors, "[T]he provisions of the draft additional protocol with India are based on the text of those provisions in the Model Additional Protocol to which India has agreed." The note said that India sent a letter to the agency in September 2008 indicating the measures of the Model Additional Protocol that India was willing to accept and requesting that the agency prepare a draft protocol on the basis of those specifications.

Nonetheless, the agreement the agency approved omitted many of the key provisions of the Model Additional Protocol regarding the type of information India would provide to the agency and the access that would be granted to agency inspectors. In particular, among the provisions of the Model Additional Protocol on what kinds of activities and facilities a country would report to the agency, India only agreed to share information on nuclear-related exports. Reporting provisions of the model protocol not contained in India's agreement cover information such as nuclear fuel-cycle-related research and development, nuclear-related imports, and uranium mining.

The Indian additional protocol also does not include any complementary access provisions, which provide the IAEA with the potential authority to inspect undeclared facilities. Such provisions also allow the agency to carry out environmental sampling.

Many of the provisions not included in the Indian additional protocol are intended to provide the agency with the means to detect undeclared nuclear activities. As in the case of NPT nuclear-weapon states, India will continue to maintain undeclared nuclear activities outside of safeguards.

Still, the additional protocols adopted by some nuclear-weapon states, including the United States, have incorporated most of the provisions of the Model Additional Protocol with some adjustments. In such cases, rather than omit certain aspects of the standard protocol, nuclear-weapon states have conditioned access on the basis of national security exclusions.

The U.S. additional protocol, for example, allows Washington to exclude its implementation in cases that would "result in access by the agency to activities with direct national security significance to the United States."

Although the Indian additional protocol does not include a national security exemption, it does contain a broad exemption for unsafeguarded activities. It states that the protocol will "not hinder or otherwise interfere" with any nuclear activities outside the scope of India's safeguards agreement.

In 2006, New Delhi agreed to place 14 thermal power reactors under IAEA monitoring, leaving another eight unsafeguarded. It has yet to provide the agency formally with a list of facilities to fall under safeguards, a key requirement for such monitoring mechanisms to come into effect.