Science  27 Jan 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5760, pp. 451

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  1. Breeding Suspicion

    1. Pallava Bagla

    NEW DELHI—The fate of a landmark nuclear pact between India and the United States hinges on whether India will allow inspections of its fast breeder reactors. The two sides will meet next month to try to resolve the impasse.

    The deal, inked last July, would allow U.S. firms to sell civilian nuclear technologies and fuel to India, ending a 30-year embargo. As one concession, India would divide its nuclear complex into civilian facilities open to Western businesses—and inspectors—and closed military installations. India's draft plan to tag the bulk of its complex, including all R&D facilities, as military has created tension (Science, 20 January, p. 318). The U.S. Congress will review the plan before deciding whether to make changes to U.S. law needed for the pact to take effect.

    The main sticking point during negotiations in New Delhi last week, Science has learned, is India's insistence on keeping its fast breeder reactors in Kalpakkam on the military list. India claims this is an R&D facility. The United States asserts that the technology is not novel and points out that a similar reactor in Japan is under safeguards. “This comparison is inappropriate,” seethes M. R. Srinivasan of India's Atomic Energy Commission. He notes that Japan, a nonweapons state, has different safeguards obligations. It's doubtful, though, that U.S. lawmakers will buy that argument.

  2. Sonar Comments: Navy Listening

    1. Eli Kintisch

    The public has until next week to comment on the U.S. Navy's plans to build a long-sought 1700-km2 sonar training facility off the Atlantic coast. The Pentagon says it needs the facility, slated for the southeastern North Carolina shore, to train ships to hunt increasingly quiet submarines. But green groups opposed to the plan say the Navy's draft environmental statement downplays risks to mammals, corals, and fish.

    The Natural Resources Defense Council wants to factor in a stranding of 36 whales of three species in January 2005 that occurred after Navy sonar exercises roughly 450 km away. But although it hasn't ruled sonar out as a cause, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration doesn't plan to issue a report on the incident until March. The Navy has acknowledged that sonar can harm whales, but the science of mass strandings remains mysterious. A final draft of the statement will also receive comments before the Navy makes a decision on the plans.

  3. Cell Vote a Go in MO

    1. Constance Holden

    A Missouri judge last week ruled that stem cell advocates could begin collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would explicitly permit research cloning, or somatic cell nuclear transfer, to generate human embryonic stem cells. The proposal would also outlaw reproductive cloning. Opponents called the proposed ballot language “misleading,” but a Cole County judge called the wording “fair.” The pro-research initiative must garner 150,000 signatures by 9 May to earn a fall ballot spot.

    In the meantime, Republican state Senator Matt Bartle plans to introduce a bill banning the creation of a “human being” in any way other than through union of sperm and egg.

  4. Call Ourselves an Institute

    1. Barbara Casassus,
    2. Gretchen Vogel

    PARIS AND BERLIN—A fight over a proposed 80,000-m2 multidisciplinary institute outside Paris has pitted researchers against the French government once again. The Save French Research movement opposes plans for the European Institute of Technology in Saclay, preferring to link up and strengthen existing ones to form a multicenter European Technology Institute. Supporters say current technology labs are too dispersed and dilapidated to form a nucleus of excellence. Research Minister François Goulard, a project supporter, says he hopes it would take shape in the next few months.

    Meanwhile, the German government has named 10 finalists in a competitive initiative designed to boost several universities to world-class status. Dark horse University of Bremen joined the University of Heidelberg among the finalists.

  5. Researcher Rules Eased

    1. Yudhijit Bhattacharjee

    Easing scientists' concerns, the U.S. Department of Commerce has decided that export-control rules restricting foreign researchers in the United States from using sensitive technologies should be based on the person's most recent country of citizenship or permanent residency and not country of birth. The changes to the rules, which are aimed at preventing the transfer of sensitive technologies to countries the United States views as national security threats including China and Russia, are expected to be finalized soon.