[Marxism] Indo-US Nuclear Deal: EPW Editorial

Sukla Sen suklasenp at yahoo.co.uk
Fri Aug 17 20:06:03 MDT 2007

[20,000 MW of electricity from nuclear power plants by
2020 would, as per an official deposition before the
Indian parliament, is going to be 7% of the total
electricity produced. Total energy consumption is of
the order of at least twice that.]


No Nukes For Peace

By Praful Bidwai

13 August, 2007
The Times of India

August 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

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

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 Rs 1.20.

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

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.

Want ideas for reducing your carbon footprint? Visit Yahoo! For Good  http://uk.promotions.yahoo.com/forgood/environment.html

More information about the Marxism mailing list