NUCLEAR CONTROL INSTITUTE,
FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS,
UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS,
ENERGY RESEARCH FOUNDATION,
COMMITTEE FOR A SANE NUCLEAR POLICY (SANE)
HOLD FOR RELEASE AFTER 1 PM
Contact: PAUL LEVENTHAL, 822-8444
THURSDAY, JULY 28, 1983
Washington--- Six public-interest organizations today challenged as illegal the Reagan Administration's plan to provide more nuclear assistance to India despite India's continuing program to develop nuclear weapons.
LEGAL CHALLENGE TO BLOCK NUCLEAR EXPORTS TO INDIA ANNOUNCED BY SIX PUBLIC-INTEREST ORGANIZATIONS
The coalition joined in a legal action to block export of reactor components for India's nuclear powerplant at Tarapur, near Bombay. The groups filed a petition today with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to intervene in an export- licensing proceeding involving the spare parts for the U.S.- supplied plant.
Joining in the legal action were the Nuclear Control Institute, Federation of American Scientists, Union of Concerned Scientists, Greenpeace, Energy Research Foundation and Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE).
The groups contended that India is violating nuclear- export requirements in U.S. non-proliferation law by actively pursuing a nuclear-weapons program that began with India's "peaceful nuclear explosion" in 1974. India also is in violation of U.S. requirements, the coalition stated in its petition, by refusing to guarantee that international safeguards inspections will be permitted indefinitely to verify that the twin reactors at Tarapur, and the plutonium produced by them, are not used for the manufacture of nuclear weapons.
The coalition's petition to the NRC was filed in response to Secretary of State Shultz' announcement in New Delhi on June 30 that the United States would supply India with reactor parts not available from other countries. Shultz' action served to break a logjam that dates back as far as May, 1980 on six applications to export reactor components to India. The applications, filed by General Electric, manufacturer of the Tarapur plant, and by four other American companies, had lain dormant before the NRC in the absence of an Executive Branch recommendation, as required by law, that the exports go forward.
The required recommendation was held up pending the outcome of U.S. diplomatic efforts to win firm commitments from India not to repeat its nuclear test of 1974, as well as to permit continued international safeguards inspections and U.S. controls on plutonium produced at Tarapur through use of nuclear fuel and equipment supplied by the United States. India has refused to make any such commitments, proceeding instead to prepare another nuclear test site and threatening, over U.S. objections, to extract pure, explosive plutonium from the Tarapur plant's used, or "spent," fuel.
The Reagan Administration is expected to recommend to the NRC to proceed with the exports anyway, based on a statement by a State Department spokesman with Shultz in India that the Administration "is prepared to take the necessary actions to supply those parts which are not available from elsewhere," including "the kind of action that will permit those spare parts to be made available in the United States."
In a joint statement on behalf of the coalition of publicinterest intervenors, Paul Leventhal of Nuclear Control Institute said: "The Reagan Administration is caving in to Indian demands for the reactor parts, ostensibly for health and safety reasons, but actually to remove what it considers an irritant from U.S.-India relations. India has made no concessions on altering the military nature of its supposedly peaceful nuclear program. Still in dispute is control over the one metric ton of plutonium produced thus far at Tarapur--- enough for about 150 atomic bombs. The Administration is squandering legitimate leverage by agreeing to supply reactor parts that cannot be obtained elsewhere. This undermines longstanding American efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons. U.S. appeasement in the face of Indian blackmail will not go unnoticed in the world community. It can only embolden other nuclear customers of the United States to follow India's example."
In rejecting Reagan Administration contentions that the reactor parts should be exported for humanitarian reasons to eliminate high levels of radioactivity that threaten plant workers and residents near Tarapur, the intervenors state in their petition that the exports "by prolonging the unsafe operation of Tarapur, will exacerbate these problems and contribute to the continuing accident and other health and safety risks" associated with operation of the facility. The petitioners noted that the radiation hazards at Tarapur are caused in large part by 'leakage from fuel elements fabricated by the Indians themselves --- a problem that the spare parts ordered by India will not eliminate.
"The risk of a serious reactor breakdown or accident, resulting in widespread death or disease, threatens U.S. relations with India and other U.S. trading partners," according to the petition filed with the NRC. "Accordingly, authorization of these exports would be 'inimical to the common defense and security' (within the meaning of the law governing exports of reactor components) and, therefore, the Commission cannot lawfully grant the pending license applications."
In addition to the health and safety question, the petition cited the following additional reasons why the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is barred from authorizing the exports by the Atomic Energy Act, as amended by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978:
Copies of the coalition's petition can be obtained from Nuclear Control Institute (822-8444) or from Eldon Greenberg (833-9084), attorney for the intervenors. Organizations joining in the intervention are listed below.
- Application of Safeguards--- Under the U.S.-India agreement governing operation of the Tarapur plant, inspections and other safeguards are to be applied by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on both the facility and the nuclear materials that pass through it. The agreement expires in 1993, and India has refused to accept the U.S. interpretation that IAEA safeguards will apply in perpetuity --- that is, beyond 1993. "There is a real risk that it (India) will continue to insist on this interpretation and that, after 1993, safeguards will be removed," according to the petition. Consequently, since the Atomic Energy Act requires safeguards as a condition of supply of nuclear components, the NRC cannot lawfully grant applications for export of the reactor parts to India.
- Development of Nuclear Explosive Devices--- The law also prohibits exports of any nuclear component that will be used for "development of any nuclear explosive device." Since the components ordered by India would permit continued production of plutonium at Tarapur, and since IAEA safeguards and U.S. controls on this plutonium are still in dispute, "plutonium produced at Tarapur is subject to diversion or theft and ultimate use in either a subnational terrorist explosive device or in the Indian government's nuclear explosives program," the petition said. Consequently, there is no assurance that the legal requirement barring use of components for development of explosive devices can be met, and the Commission cannot lawfully grant the export licenses.
- Acquisition of Nuclear Explosive Devices--- The law bars any nuclear exports to countries found by the Commission or by the President to be "engaged in activities . . . having direct significance for the manufacture or acquisition of nuclear explosive devices...."
According to the petition, "there is evidence that the Government of India is preparing a site for the testing of a nuclear explosive device, as reflected in the construction of additional shafts at its Rajasthan Desert test site." If the Commission finds that such preparations are underway, the petitioners said, it must disapprove the export as "inimical to the common defense and security" unless the President finds that India has made "sufficient progress toward terminating such activities."
- Reprocessing of Tarapur Spent Fuel --- India has announced its intention to begin reprocessing Tarapur spent fuel into plutonium by the end of 1983 or the beginning of 1984 despite the U.S. position that, under the U.S.-India Tarapur agreement, no such reprocessing can take place without the approval of the United States. India insists that the United States lost its rights to withhold approval once the IAEA began applying safeguards at India's new reprocessing plant at Tarapur last year. "Consequently, India may proceed to reprocess spent fuel without awaiting United States approval, thereby obtaining possession of directly weapons-usable material," according to the petitioners who contended that exports to India under such circumstances are "inimical to the common defense and security" and, therefore, barred by law.
- Retransfer of Exported Components--- U.S. law bars the export of nuclear components unless any retransfer of the components to a third country is subject to the "prior consent of the United States." Because of the uncertainties of India's view of its obligations under the U.S.-India Tarapur agreement beyond its expiration in 1993, there is no assurance India will live up to this obligation, and the Commission, therefore, cannot grant the export licenses.
"The significance of these nuclear exports extends far beyond the ton of disputed Tarapur plutonium or the current state of U.S.-Indian relations," Leventhal said on behalf of the coalition.
"At stake is the way some 220 tons of civilian plutonium already produced by nuclear powerplants in the free world will be treated--an amount that will grow to 1,750 tons by the end of the next decade. If the United States acquiesces in India's demands, it will further legitimize the fiction of 'peaceful' nuclear explosions and erode the legal and political barriers now preventing conversion of tons of civilian plutonium into thousands of nuclear weapons."
Nuclear Control Institute
Coalition of Intervenors
1000 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20036
A 1,000 member non-profit organization engaged in developing studies and strategies for stopping the further spread of nuclear weapons.
Federation of American Scientists
307 Massachusetts Avenue, NE
Washington, D.C. 20002
A non-profit, membership organization composed of 5,000 natural and social scientists concerned with arms control and other problems of science and society.
Union of Concerned Scientists
26 Church Street
Cambridge, Mass. 02238
A non-profit organization, supported by contributions from 100,000 citizens, and organized by a coalition of scientists, engineers and other professionals concerned with the impact of advanced technology on society, especially in energy and weapons policy areas.
2007 R Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20009
A non-profit organization with 280,000 members in the U.S. concerned with protection of the global environment, with particular concern for wildlife protection, control of toxic substances and disarmament.
Energy Research Foundation
2530 Devine Street
Columbia, S.C. 29205
A non-profit, operating foundation engaged in research and public education on nuclear and other energy issues.
711 G Street, SE
Washington, D.C. 20003
A 60,000 member non-profit organization concerned with organizing citizens to lobby and disseminate information on arms control and economic conversion issues.
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