Russia may supply uranium enrichment technology to India

On 13 October, in an interview with Russian and Indian news agencies leading up to his visit to the BRICs summit in Goa, President Putin of Russia outlined areas of nuclear cooperation with India. Along with building nuclear power reactors, President Putin announced that

Technological cooperation in the field of uranium enrichment is being established.

No further details were given by either Russia or India, but the two countries had signed on 24 December 2015 a "Programme of Action Agreed Between The Department of Atomic Energy of India And The Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation "Rosatom" for Localization of Manufacturing in India for Russian-Designed Nuclear Reactor Units." India plans to have 12 Russian-supplied reactors, of which up to eight reactors may be in the Kudankulam area.

It is not known if the 2015 Programme of Action mentions uranium enrichment. In March 2016, India's government told parliament that it "covers localisation in India for major equipment and spares as well as fuel assemblies for future Russian-designed reactors in India". Mr. Putin's comments seemed to suggest that along with nuclear reactor and fuel assembly technology transfer, Russia may be planning to supply India with uranium enrichment technology. This could be in the form of a centrifuge plant to provide low enriched uranium for fuel assembly fabrication in India for the Russian supplied reactors. Indeed, in 2010, Sergei Kiriyenko, the chief of Rosatom announced that "We plan to set up joint facilities for enrichment and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel in India ... In China we already have such facility."

Russia previously has built centrifuge enrichment plants in China with a total capacity of 1.5 million SWU, which are Chinese operated.

It is possible that Russian transfer of enrichment technology to India, which is not a party to the NPT, would not be compatible with June 2015 Nuclear Suppliers Group guidelines.

These guidelines on special controls on sensitive exports state that

  1. Suppliers should exercise a policy of restraint in the transfer of sensitive facilities, equipment, technology and material usable for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, especially in cases when a State has on its territory entities that are the object of active NSG Guidelines Part 2 denial notifications from more than one NSG Participating Government.

(a) In the context of this policy, suppliers should not authorize the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing facilities, and equipment and technology therefore if the recipient does not meet, at least, all of the following criteria:

(i) Is a Party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and is in full compliance with its obligations under the Treaty;