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INDIA BUILDING N-SUBMARINE, TOP NUCLEAR EXPERT CONFIRMS

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A top nuclear expert confirmed Thursday that India is building a nuclear-powered submarine, despite government claims that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

The project is being designed by the Atomic Energy Department, the Defense Ministry and the navy, said M.R. Srinivasan, who was chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission from 1987 to 1992."The nuclear establishment has not taken the country into confidence," Srinivasan wrote in The Hindu newspaper Thursday.

The submarine project in the eastern coastal town of Vishakapatnam was code named Advanced Technology Vehicle to avoid suspicion, he said.

A facility has been built on land for testing the submarine reactor, he wrote, and India also was producing enriched uranium to fuel the submarine's reactor and making other components and equipment.

India's nuclear program remains secretive, and government officials declined to comment on Srinivasan's article, which was the first confirmation of the project by a senior establishment scientist.

Speculation has been rife since a lower-level scientist, Kota Subba Rao, went public this year after his own design for a reactor was rejected.

India conducted a nuclear test in 1974 but says it never pursued a nuclear weapons program and its know-how was being applied only for generating power and research. It has 10 nuclear power plants.

But it refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, arguing that it must maintain a nuclear option to counter China's arsenal and Pakistan's capability to assemble a weapon.