June 30, 2011 / 6:00 AM / 9 years ago

India nuclear trade waiver safe-U.S. ambassador

NEW DELHI, June 30 (Reuters) - India’s U.S.-brokered exemption from nuclear technology trade rules is secure, the U.S. ambassador to the country said on Thursday, easing worries that new global regulations would harm New Delhi’s rapidly-growing nuclear programme.

The global Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) tightened rules on the trade of sensitive technology last week, sparking fears that Asia’s third largest economy’s nuclear ambitions, key to meet a soaring energy demand, would be hit.

“The White House and the Obama administration strongly and vehemently support the clean waiver for India,” outgoing U.S. ambassador Timothy Roemer told reporters after a speech to mark his departure from the post.

“Secondly the [Section] 123 civil nuclear legislation also underscores our support for India in this debate that is going on. And thirdly our law clearly points to the clean waiver for India,” Roemer added.

Washington sealed a nuclear supply deal with India in 2008 to give Asia’s third-largest economy access to technology and fuel without forcing the country to open up its nuclear sites to international watchdogs, as the NSG guidelines stipulate.

The landmark civilian nuclear cooperation agreement ended India’s atomic isolation following its 1974 nuclear weapons test and could mean billions of dollars in business for U.S. firms.

India has refused to sign the 189-nation nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a cornerstone of global disarmament efforts and a pre-requisite under the new NSG rules for acquiring uranium enrichment or spent fuel reprocessing technology, which has both civilian and military applications.

India has so far not commented on the revised NSG guidelines, which are yet to be made public and were adopted at a meeting last week after years of discussion.

India aims to lift its nuclear capacity to more than 20,000 MW by 2020 and 63,000 MW by 2032 from under 5,000 MW today by adding nearly 30 reactors.

The country suffers from a peak-hour power deficit of about 12 percent that acts as a brake on an economy growing at nearly 9 percent and causes blackouts in much of the country. About 40 percent of Indians, or 500 million people, lack electricity.

Roemer, who has worked in New Delhi since August 2009 after being appointed by President Obama, resigned from his post in April citing personal commitments. (Reporting by Henry Foy; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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