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Achilles Heel of Narendra Modi Is Nuclear Power

By Buddhi Kota Subbarao

15 September, 2014

With ‘Audacity of Hope' Barack Obama became President of United States the most powerful ‘democracy'. But hope without audacity elevated Narendra Modi to become Prime Minister of India. One will wish Modi well, while he commits himself to lead the most populous democracy on earth to peace and prosperity.

Many pandits from various fields have been showering advice on Modi. But those pandits may not be able to decipher that the Achilles heel of Narendra Modi is Nuclear Power. For that matter, even Manmohan Singh who believed that his crowning achievement as Prime Minister of India was the signing of “Indo-US Nuclear Deal” did not realise that nuclear power was his “Achilles heel” too.

Bare Bones of Indo-US Nuclear Deal

India and United States had distinct driving forces and motivations to ink the Indo-US nuclear deal. Indian nuclear scientists were keen to come out of nuclear pariah status forced on India after India conducted its first nuclear test in 1974 (Pokhran-I) followed by second nuclear test in 1998 (Pokhran-II). Whereas, United States along with other nuclear power plant supplier countries saw India as a huge market place for nuclear power plants.

Dr Anil Kakodkar, former chairperson of the Atomic Energy Commission publicly revealed India was cornered to sign Indo-US nuclear deal. In an article published in prominent Marathi newspaper Sakaal on January 5, 2011, Kakodkar stated “We have to keep in mind the commercial interests of foreign countries and of the companies there… America, Russia and France were the countries that we made mediators in these efforts to lift sanctions, and hence, for the nurturing of their business interests, we made deals with them for nuclear projects.”

The confidence of the United States to compel India to agree to purchase nuclear power plants rested on two grounds. Firstly , the Americans from their own seismic analysis became fully aware, India's first nuclear test in 1974 (Pokhran I) was almost a failure as its yield was very low and not what was planned and in the second nuclear test in 1998 (Pokhran II), hydrogen bomb test was a total failure. For some relevant facts on Pokhran II, one may see We 've a science scam too ”, The Hindu , Tuesday, March 14, 2000. Secondly , Americans are fully aware (Russians are more aware from close quarters) of the pretence to knowledge of the senior Indian nuclear scientists whose priority is pursuit for power instead of knowledge. Every nuclear power nation is aware, Indian Prime Ministers who hold charge of nuclear are easily misled by the ‘top' Indian nuclear scientists. Indians are lulled to remain ignorant of it. The mainstream media in India has no sustained desire to analyse these aspects for several reasons among which is the fear of losing advertisement revenue from Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).

The least realised fact is India's Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has all the characteristics of a cash rich megacorporation conferred with a right to push all its mismanagement under the carpet of national security.

A characteristic of our times is the affinity between Governments and Mega Corporations. Media is controlled by the corporate world. Ever improving methods bend the minds of people. Freedom to think and act is plenty only within the defined bounds.

With the pervasive synergy between Governments and Mega Corporations, there is a credible metric to measure each Government head. The real metric to measure Narendra Modi is not from the projections of the hired American Global Public Relations Firm APCO but from his ability to separate socialism from capitalism like the way a swan can separate milk from water.

In the United States, the word ‘socialism' is an abuse. Whereas, the Preamble of The Constitution of India begins, “WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens: ..”. Hence the mandate of Indian Constitution is to transform India into socialistic pattern of society. Therefore, capitalism cannot be allowed to gain upper hand in India.

With the collapse of USSR, it may appear the capitalism won and communism lost. However, the loss to the Russians from the collapse of USSR is certainly less than the loss to the developing and underdeveloped world. The relevant point for the present discussion is, according to Alexey Vladimirovich Yablokov of Russian Academy of Sciences, there was an admission by Mikhail Gorbachev that the collapse of USSR commenced with the accident on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine (then officially the Ukrainian SSR ).

Nuclear Technology Is Unforgiving

Nuclear power plants are prone to serious accidents as has been witnessed at Fukushima in Japan on March 11, 2011, at Chernobyl in former USSR on April 26, 1986, and at Three Mile Island,  Pennsylvania , United States on March 28, 1979 . The significant fact is all these three major nuclear accidents are man-made and not so much due to technology deficiency.

The triple meltdowns (nuclear cores in reactors 1, 2, and 3) at Fukushima were no doubt caused by the failures of the reactors' cooling systems after external power and backup generators were destroyed by the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami. But the Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC), constituted by the law passed by Japanese Parliament, concluded that it is a manmade accident. More precisely, the report of the Commission states:

“The TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and TEPCO, and the lack of governance by said parties. They effectively betrayed the nation's right to be safe from nuclear accidents. Therefore, we conclude that the accident was clearly ‘ manmade .' We believe that the root causes were the organizational and regulatory systems that supported faulty rationales for decisions and actions, rather than issues relating to the competency of any specific individual.”

US Nuclear Regulatory Commission member William Magwood admitted and stated publicly at the end of June 2014, that there is no technology that exists anywhere to solve the problem of Fukushima's melted nuclear fuel. However, in the aftermath of Fukushima nuclear disaster, the nuclear power plant suppliers are aggressively claiming that the new nuclear power plant designs have improved safety features and the fears about nuclear power plant accidents are ill founded. With such claims, the nuclear power plant supplier group is on a selling spree trotting many countries of the world including India.

Contest of Competing Wolves

According to Che Guevara, capitalism is a contest between competing wolves. India has become the competing ground for such wolves, more so in the matter of selling nuclear power plants.  Many are the direct and indirect actions of these competing wolves to compel India to pave the way for smooth selling of nuclear power plants to India. The hidden hand of these competing wolves is a notable contributing factor for the signing of recent Australian uranium sales deal with India .

US Westinghouse, US GE and Japan's Toshiba Corp are jointly arrayed to sell nuclear power plants to India. Westinghouse Electric Company LLC, is a group company of  Toshiba Corporation of Japan. Westinghouse is looking forward to building 6,000 MW of nuclear power projects in Gujarat. During the Gujarat Global Investors' summit in 2007, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to set up a 6000 MW Nuclear Power plant in village Mithi Virdi, Bhavnagar district, Gujarat, was signed by the Government of Gujarat (GOG) with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) a Government of India company. Westinghouse, USA AP1000 reactors are slated for the Mithi Virdi site which is just a few kms away from ALANG Shipbreaking Yard. The total cost will not be less than rupees one lakh crores. Similarly a nuclear power park of 9,500 MWe capacity is slated to come up at Kovvada, in Srikakulam District of Andhra Pradesh, with GE reactors made in the US and the cost is expected to be over rupees one lakh crores.

AREVA a French multinational group specializing in nuclear and renewable energy is striving to set up nuclear power plants in India. Areva signed on 4 February 2009, an MOU to supply two to six nuclear reactors to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited , for the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project in the state of Maharashtra. The then chairman of Nuclear Power Corporation S.K.Jain said the six reactors would be worth 600 billion rupees ($12.3 billion) in total, but it was not clear then whether this included engineering works or if it was the price for the reactors alone. O n 6 December 2010, France and India signed a General Framework Agreement between French nuclear major Areva and Nuclear Power Cooperation of India Ltd (NPCIL) for building two European pressurised reactors (EPR) in Jaitapur. But some issues, including the price of these reactors and differences over India's civil nuclear liability law, are yet to be sorted out before the commercial contract is executed. Now serious negotiations are going on between the French and Indian sides about the price of the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Park slated to host two European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs) of 1,650 MWe each, with possible extension by four additional units and the total cost of Jaipur nuclear park will be over rupees one lakh crores.

The total cost of the two Russian VVER 1000 MW nuclear reactors under commission and two more slated for installation at Koodankulam, Tamil Nadu would be above rupees Rs.60,000 crores. However, it may not be fair to count Russia among the now competing wolves in India in the field of nuclear power plants. When the United States, United Kingdom and France were not prepared to share nuclear submarine technology with India, the then USSR was approached by India in the eighties and USSR agreed to help India with nuclear submarine technology. In the arrangement that followed India agreed to pay the then USSR for nuclear submarine technology and also for some nuclear power plants. That was how Koodankulam nuclear power plant came into existence. 

Subsequently, the foreign nuclear power plant suppliers are allotted spots in India. In that allotment - Russia has been allotted two spots (Koodankulam in Tirunelveli district, Tamil Nadu; and Haripur in Purba Medinipur district, West Bengal), France one spot (Jaitapur in Ratnagiri district, Maharashtra), and the United States two spots (Kovvada in Srikakulam district, Andhra Pradesh; and Mithi Virdi in Bhavnagar district, Gujarat). The total investment in all such proposed nuclear power plants would be more than rupees five lakh crores.

The present total Nuclear Power Plant Capacity of India is 4780 MWe which is about  3 % of the total electricity generation in the country. NPCIL site shows that DAE/NPCIL vision is to achieve 20,000 MWe by the year 2020. Beyond 2020, the optimistic projections of  DAE/NPIL are 63000 MWe by 2030, 131000 MWe by 2040 and 275000 MWe by 2050. NPCIL site also states that in energy terms, the Integrated Energy Policy of India estimates share of nuclear power in the total primary energy mix to be between 4.0 to 6.4% in various scenarios in the year 2031-32. The study by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), estimates the nuclear share to be about 8.6% by the year 2032 and 16.6% by the year 2052.

United States, Japan and France are coxing and compelling India to climb-up quickly on the nuclear electricity curve. This they do, with an effectively articulated misrepresentation that nuclear energy is clean, safe and cheap. At the same time United States, Japan and France are investing heavily on wind and solar and other renewable energy sources. Their strategy is to sell potentially dangerous nuclear power plants to countries like India and use the money to invest in their own countries to boost wind, solar and other renewable energy sources. If this sounds hypothetical, listen to what Barack Obama said to his fellow Americans.

Modi Needs To Understand Obama

In his weekly address to the nation (May 31, 2014), US President Barack Obama said, “One of the best things we can do for our economy, our health and our environment is to lead the world for cleaner, safer energy. We are already generating more cleaner energy than ever before. Thanks in part the investment we made in the recovery act. The electricity America generates from wind has tripled and from sun it increased more than tenfold. In fact, every four minutes another American home or business goes solar. Every panel is pounded in the place by a worker whose job cannot be shipped overseas. We are wasting less energy too.”

Video: Obama defends his boldest step for a low-carbon economy yet”, Bloomberg, 2nd June 2014


Hope Narendra Modi cares to read carefully the above cited weekly address of Obama and understand where the United States is heading on the energy front.

If according to Barack Obama, every four minutes another American home or business is going solar, why should India invest heavily on nuclear electricity – amounting to more than 5 lakh crore rupees? Why India should not commit all that money to solar, wind, hydro, bio-fuels and on plans for conservation of electricity? If the dangerous nuclear electricity path is abandoned and the money is diverted to solar, wind, hydro, and bio-fuels will it not immensely improve employment opportunities in India, apart from realising safe and clean electricity production?

The record shows, US is not a reliable party to honour the long term agreement in the nuclear field. Under a long term agreement the United States was to supply nuclear fuel to Tarapur Nuclear Power Plant for the entire life of the plant. But after India conducted its first nuclear test in 1974 (Pokhran-1), US declined to supply the nuclear fuel to Tarapur on the pretext that subsequent to India's nuclear test the US Law Makers passed a law to prevent nuclear fuel supply to India. With such experience with US, India should be wary of any long term deal with that country including the high end defence deals because at the spur of a moment US is prone to impose sanctions and stringent export control laws. India should think twice before making any deals with the United States in the nuclear and defence fields.

If the United States and Japan are striving to keep nuclear power as a necessary component of their energy plan, it is not because nuclear power is a necessary component of their energy plan, but only to hold the potential buyers of nuclear power plants under the false and ill-founded impression that nuclear power has to remain as a necessary component of energy mix to combat carbon emissions and global warming. It is time Indians woke up to this reality. India is blessed with rivers, sunshine and wind from three sides – Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal. It is these natural resources that should guide the energy plan for India. Harnessing water resources will fetch not only electricity, but also irrigation, drinking water and navigation.

If corruption in India is mostly in the singular dimension of money, the corruption in the United States is multi-dimensional as Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, former US Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal puts it in his , Institute for Political Economy, column July 7, 2014:

“The corruption in present-day America is total. Psychologists and anthropologists serve war and torture. Economists serve globalism and US financial hegemony. Physicists and chemists serve the war industries. Physicists and computer geeks serve NSA. The media serves the government and the corporations. The political parties serve the six powerful private interest groups that rule the country.”

That should help Indians in knowing what to shun and what to adopt from Americans. It is true there is much to adopt from the Americans. While adopting American creative pursuits in building knowledge and wealth, the guiding principle should emerge from the answers to the questions – when Internet made knowledge available to everyone in the world why should wealth be allowed to get accumulated with a few? Is it not just and fair to equate effort and comfort , unmindful of which ism it is – capitalism, socialism or communism? Should not humanity rise as a whole to demand that this equation should become universal law?

Buddhi Kota Subbarao is former Indian Navy Captain with Ph.D. in nuclear technology from Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay and practising advocate of Supreme Court of India. His e-mail address is [email protected]

Earlier articles of the author are:

Have American Nuclear Companies Trapped Indian Prime Minister?

By Buddhi Kota Subbarao. Ph.D.

21 September, 2013


Koodankulam NPP Verdict From Supreme Court Requires Review And Recall
  By Buddhi Kota Subbarao. Ph.D.

The Apex Court's judgment and order dated May 6, 2013 endorsing the nuclear energy as “clean, safe, reliable and competitive energy source” has affected the legal and constitutional rights of the people of India. This endorsement and such other endorsements from the Supreme Court would come in the way of every High Court to examine afresh the issues that arise from the establishment of nuclear power plants within the territorial jurisdiction of the High Court

Koodankulam Nuclear Plant Has Salient Lessons For India And Russia

By Buddhi Kota Subbarao.Ph.D.

24 March, 2013


Condemning North Korea's Latest Nuclear Test Is Meaningless

By Buddhi Kota Subbarao

14 February, 2013


Nuking Indian democracy

Buddhi Kota Subbarao


Nuclear Power Business Is Defacing Indian Democracy

By Buddhi Kota Subbarao. Ph.D.

18 September, 2012


AERB And Regulatory Capture In India: Conflict of Interest?

By Buddhi Kota Subbarao. Ph.D.

12 August, 2012


Who Benefits From Nuclear Power Plants In India?

By   Buddhi Kota Subbarao. Ph.D.

02 August, 2012


Whether Ordinance On Self-Denial Of Nuclear Power Harmful To India?

By Buddhi Kota Subbarao. Ph.D

11 June, 2012


Koodankulam Nuclear Plant: Jayalalitha Is Consciously Missing A Historic Opportunity

04 April, 2012

Should The Koodankulam Power Nuclear Plant Be Commissioned Or Abandoned?

08 March, 2012


Need To Revisit The Role Of Nuclear Power For India 's Energy Security

15 December, 2011,


Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant Is Destined To Reset The Nuclear Priorities In India

16 October, 2011


Indo-US Nuclear Deal- Some Unexplored Angles

9 March, 2006.





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