Nukes For Peace
By Praful Bidwai
13 August, 2007
The Times of India
9 was the 62nd anniversary of the atomic devastation of Nagasaki. It
is an appropriate, if sad, occasion to look at the military as well
as energy implications of the India-US nuclear agreement.
The nuclear deal is as much
about weapons as civilian power. Not only does it recognise India as
a "responsible" state "with advanced nuclear technology";
it specifically distinguishes between India's civilian and military
nuclear facilities while placing the former under international inspections
(safeguards). Its Article 2.4 affirms that its purpose is "not
to affect the unsafeguarded nuclear activities of either party"
or to "hinder or otherwise interfere" with any other activities
involving "material and technology" acquired or developed
"independent of this agreement for their own purposes".
Put simply, India can produce
and stockpile as much weapons-grade material as it likes in its unsafeguarded
and military-nuclear facilities, including dedicated weapons-grade plutonium
producers like Dhruva, the uranium enrichment plant near Mysore, the
Prototype Fast-Breeder Reactor (PFBR) under construction, and the eight
power reactors (of a total of 22 operating or planned ones) exempted
from the agreed separation plan.
According to an International
Panel on Fissile Materials report, the eight reactors alone will yield
1,250 kg of weapons-grade plutonium a year, enough to build 250 Nagasaki-type
bombs. In addition, the PFBR and Dhruva will respectively produce 130
and 20-25 kg of plutonium annually. India can use imported uranium for
its safeguarded reactors and dedicate scarce domestic uranium exclusively
to military uses, generating up to 200 kg of plutonium after reprocessing.
This will each year allow
India to more than triple its existing estimated plutonium inventory
of 500 kg, itself enough for 100 warheads. The deal leaves India free
to build even more weapons-dedicated facilities. Surely, this puts India's
potential nuclear arsenal way beyond the realm of a "minimum deterrent".
This should put paid to the argument that the deal will cap India's
nuclear-military capability. If anything, the deal panders to India's
vaulting nuclear ambitions.
Washington made unique exceptions
in the global non-proliferation order for India primarily to recruit
it as a close, if subordinate, strategic ally for reasons elaborated
since 2000 by Condoleezza Rice, Ashley Tellis and Philip Zelikow, among
others. A strong rationale was to create a counterfoil to China, and
an anchor within a US-dominated Asian security architecture, on a par
with Japan and Israel.
There's a price to pay for
this. This isn't merely acquiescence in US strategic-political plans,
or accommodation to Washington's pressures in respect of Iran. It also,
critically, lies in potentially triggering a regional nuclear-arms race
and abandoning the fight for global nuclear disarmament. It is sordid
that India, long an apostle of nuclear disarmament, should end up apologising
for mass-annihilation weapons.
Will the deal help India
achieve energy security? Nuclear power is a hazardous and accident-prone
energy source. Its radiation is an invisible but deadly poison; it leaves
extremely toxic wastes which remain active for thousands of years. No
solution to the waste-storage, leave alone disposal, problem is on the
Nuclear power is costly.
A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study estimates US unit costs
of 6.7 cents for nuclear, 4.2 cents for coal, and 3.8-5.6 cents for
gas. In India, power from nuclear plants under construction will cost
Rs 3-plus. But the winning bid for the coal-based Sasan project is only
Nuclear power has a bleak
future worldwide - despite global warming, which the nuclear industry
claims it can mitigate. Nuclear power can only make an insignificant
contribution to greenhouse gas reduction. A just-published Oxford Research
Group study says that for nuclear industry's contribution to be significant,
the global industry would have to construct about one reactor a week
for 60 years - an absurdity.
Nuclear power in India is
less than 3 per cent of its total electricity capacity. Even if its
utopian mid-century targets materialise, nuclear power will only contribute
6-7 per cent to power generation. What price are we paying for it?
The writer is a commentator
on public affairs.
Share Your Insights
it! And spread the word!
Here is a unique chance to help this article to be read by thousands
of people more. You just Digg it, and it will appear in the home page
of Digg.com and thousands more will read it. Digg is nothing but an
vote, the article with most votes will go to the top of the page. So,
as you read just give a digg and help thousands more to read this article.