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  India Russia Nuclear issue: Indian media is silent about it  
 

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By: Dr.Dipak Basu
July 04, 2007
V
iews expressed here are author"s own and not of this website. Full disclaimer is at the bottom.

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(The author is a Professor in International Economics in Nagasaki University, Japan)

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Russia has proposed as an alternative to the Indo-US deal but the Indian news media is silent about it.

Indo-US nuclear deal will not supply India with the fuel cycle, enrichment plants for uranium and reprocessing plants of spent fuel, as the U.S. Atomic Energy Act of 1954 specifically forbids export of these technologies, as also heavy water production technology, to other countries. Section 103 of the Hyde Act suggests that the US would oppose development of a capability to produce nuclear weapons by any non-nuclear weapon state within or outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty regime. Section 104(d) (2) stipulates that transfers to India cannot begin without suitable changes in NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) guidelines. About 90 percent of all nuclear facilities, including the Russian built Fast Breeder Reactors which can produce plutonium for nuclear weapons, will be included in the civilian sector according to the Indo-US Nuclear Deal and there will be regular inspection by the IAEA and the US authority to make sure that these facilities will not be used to produce nuclear weapons.

In the case of nuclear deal with the US, the result will make Pakistan much stronger than India in very near future. That serves the geo-political interest of the United States with Pakistan as the bridge to the Islamic world. China has already supplied Pakistan enrichment plants and heavy water plants, and nuclear weapons as well. Chinese nuclear plants offered to Pakistan will not be under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Thus, Pakistan can very well use these to produce nuclear weapons but India cannot.

In 1974, USA has imposed sanctions so that India cannot get any nuclear related materials or technology. After 1998 USA has imposed more sanctions on India so that it cannot get any defense related technology or materials at all. However, India since 1974 has received every nuclear technology, and materials including conventional nuclear power plants, Fast Breeder reactors, reprocessing and enrichment plants and heavy water plants from the Soviet Union and Russia without any restrictions attached to these. As a result, India is nearly self-sufficient regarding nuclear technology.

India decided on a three-stage nuclear program back in the 1950s, when India"s nuclear power generation program was set up. In the first stage, natural uranium (U-238) was used in pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs). In the second stage, the plutonium extracted through reprocessing from the used fuel of the PHWRs was scheduled to be used to run fast-breeder reactors (FBRs) built by the Soviet Union and Russia in India.
In the final stage, the FBRs use thorium and produce uranium-233 for use in the third stage reactors. India began the construction of the Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) in 2005 with the help from Russia. Russian built FBRs will be ready by 2009.

The reason for India"s commitment to switch over to thorium, is its large estimated thorium reserves of some 290,000 tons, it ranks second only to Australia. This would help India to bring independence from overseas uranium sources and India would be in liberty to produce as many nuclear weapons as India likes if India would accept the Russian proposal and reject the Indo-US nuclear deal immediately.

The real issue is whether India needs any US assistance at all regarding its nuclear energy sector. Only for the last two years, because of its membership of the NSG, Russia now wants to supply on-shore nuclear power plants with added safeguards that the plants cannot be used to produce any nuclear weapons. However, at the same time, it has offered offshore nuclear plants to India, which would be outside the jurisdiction of any restrictions of the NSG or IAEA. India can have both or either of the on-shore or offshore nuclear power plants from Russia. Even if India needs nuclear power plants to supplement it energy requirement in future, India does not need nuclear power plants from USA. Russia can still supply whatever India needs at a much lower price.

Without the nuclear deal India would be able to maintain its nuclear plants by using reprocessed plutonium as a fuel and using its own uranium in the conventional plants. It will continue to get offshore nuclear plants from Russia. In that case it will be at liberty to test further nuclear weapons in future. This is exactly what President Putin has suggested but India so far is not interested.

Dr.Dipak Basu

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