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India, US Resume Cooperation on Nuclear Safety

India and the United States have resumed cooperation on safety issues in nuclear power plants. The cooperation was halted five years ago, following India's 1998 nuclear tests.

After meeting top Indian nuclear scientists, the chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Richard Meserve, told reporters that both countries have a common interest in ensuring the safety of their nuclear power plants.

Mr. Meserve heads a 15-member team visiting India's premier Bhabha Atomic Research Center and a nuclear power plant near Bombay.

The U.S. official says both countries have aging nuclear reactors. Three of India's 14 nuclear reactors, and more than half of the 104 nuclear reactors in the United States, are more than 30-years-old.

Mr. Meserve says scientists will share information on how to enhance safety at both older and newer plants. "Our role is to make an assessment of the safety and to provide assurance that if nuclear power is selected that it provides adequate protection of the public health and safety," he said.

India currently generates three percent of its energy from nuclear reactors, and plans are under way to increase this to 10 percent.

The visit by Mr. Meserve's team gives a boost to bilateral nuclear ties. The two countries began a dialogue on nuclear energy a decade ago, but economic sanctions imposed on India by the United States after New Delhi's nuclear tests in 1998 brought it to an end.

But since sanctions were lifted in 2001, India and the United States has taken steps to cooperate in areas such as defense and nuclear energy. Earlier this month, the United States and India set up the India-U.S. High Technology Cooperation Group. U.S. officials say the group was founded based on mutual trust and confidence that both countries oppose nuclear proliferation.

Indian nuclear scientists will visit the Unites States this summer to participate in the first workshop on nuclear safety. While sanctions were in place, Indian nuclear scientists were not given visas to visit the United States.