Foreign powers’ role behind India’s nuclear programme? | By Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi


Foreign powers’ role behind India’s nuclear programme?

AMAZINGLY, despite the fact that at a time when India’s eight nuclear reactors already remain out of the IAEA safety regulatory framework, Electrrice de France ( EDF) has offered India to get six evolutionary pressurised water nuclear reactors (EPRs) from France.

While looking into the evolution of the Indian nuclear program, one gets a clear picture that since Pokhran-1-11 1974 , 1998, New Delhi has been unduly favoured by the foreign powers to enhance its soft power and hard power nuclear assets.

Since India doesn’t miss an opportunity to divert its peaceful nuclear energy material into its nuclear weaponsiation program, such a French deal could cause warranted skepticism in the eyes of Pakistan’s strategists who charter their pertinent reservations regarding India’s nuclear ventures.

The record shows that while fostering a policy of double standard on the nuclear issue, foreign powers— US, Israel, Canada, Germany, UK, France and Australia—have unjustly supported India in advancing its nuclear pursuit.

An historical perspective with regard to the foreign powers support for the Indian nuclear program is an eye opener: First, it was Canada which, in 1960, imparted a 40 MW nuclear research reactor along with two 200 MW power reactors to India, while It also managed fuel for India’s first two heavy water power reactors in the Rajasthan sector to build Indians their own RAPS 1 and RAPS 2.

Next comes the United States, which helped India in the construction of Tarapur Atomic Power Stations, thereby it also provided heavy water for the CIRUS reactor that made plutonium for India’s first nuclear bomb (Pokhran-1).

Whereas, assistance and technology were provided for establishing a plutonium reprocessing plant at Trombau.

Likewise, Russians provided two 100 MW Nuclear Reactors for KudanKalam Power project in Tamil Nadu in 1998(Pokhran-2).

They also sold about 100 tonnes of heavy water for India’s un-safeguarded reactors. In addition, Moscow also loaned two nuclear powered submarines for training.

Similarly, after India’s de facto recognition of Israel in January 1992, Tel Aviv offered a greater co-operation in nuclear and missile technology.

In addition, the UK supplied turbine generator designs which were used at several unsafeguarded reactors.

Damaged equipment of some heavy water plants was repaired. India secretly acquired technology for producing a heat resistant material for its nuclear missile program from the UK.

On the other hand, Germany had supplied unsafeguarded heavy water plants which were accordingly installed at Nangal and Talsher.

Germans provided natural lithium to India, used in making tritium to boost nuclear bombs. Whereas India covertly imported 1000 kg beryllium in 1984 and later it developed its own plant at BARC, Mumbai.

In 1983 France provided training to the Indian engineers while it also provided unsafeguarded fast breeder test reactor at Kalpakkam in India.

And above all, the US-India nuclear energy deal (2005) which concludes on a non-equitable noting that the deal ushered in an era of a nuclear apartheid where the rules-based international order seems to have been swinging towards personal favouritism.

Arguably enough, ‘’instead, a single vision for a nuclear energy future that complements non-proliferation and disarmament objectives, rather than defeats them, is needed.

Elements could include limitations on all states and legally binding commitments not to build national fissile material production capabilities.

In order to formalize the US-India nuclear deal, a unanimous approval from the 48 states of the NSG was also required, both Washington and New Delhi lobbied hard and secured an unprecedented waiver of NSG export guidelines’’ so as to permit nuclear commerce with India despite its non-NPT signatory status.

Having granted the exception, several NSG members then negotiated bilateral nuclear accords with India (including France, United Kingdom, South Korea, Canada and Kazakhstan) .

Subsequently in 2008 the then Manmohan Singh government purchased 300 MT of uranium ore concentrate from Areva of France, while in 2009 MT of uranium oxide pellets and 58 MT of enriched uranium dioxide were managed from JSC Tvel/Russia.

Interesting enough to note—while Article Four of the NPT provides ‘’inalienable rights to every non-nuclear weapon state’’ to pursue nuclear energy for power generation—India is neither a member of the NPT nor a Non-Nuclear Weapon State and there is no provision in the NPT which permits for signatories to form nuclear cooperation agreements with Non-NPT states.

Arguably, when the benefits of uranium trade are weighed against the potential and actual costs and damages from uranium mining, the actual risks of nuclear reactor accidents and mismanagement, the decline in costs and advances in renewable technologies—accompanied by the steady production of nuclear waste, it becomes clear that state corporate policies to expand the industry are highly risks promoting.

Nevertheless, the new French-Indian nuclear commercial deal was formally concluded— between the two heads of states, Indian Premier Naredera Modi, and the French President Emmanuel Macron—during their current meeting in Paris (09 May).

According to the WNN, ‘’the French company EDF last year submitted to Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) its binding techno-commercial offer to build six EPRs at Jaitapur in Maharashtra state.

’’ The EDF offer includes the detailed technical configuration of the reactors, taking into consideration information on the site conditions, and the terms and conditions for the supply of engineering studies and equipment for the six reactors.

It is based on the complementary skills of EDF and NPCIL, and aims to build a long-term partnership between the French and Indian nuclear industries, EDF said last year.’’

The Jaitapur plant, with an installed capacity of 9.6 GWe, would be the most powerful nuclear power plant in the world, generating some 75 TWh per year, meeting the annual consumption needs of 70 million Indian households and avoiding the emission of an estimated 80 million tonnes of CO2 per year, EDF said.

NPCIL will be responsible for the construction and commissioning of the units, as well as obtaining all necessary permits and consents in India as the owner and future operator of the plant.

This includes certification of the EPR technology by the Indian regulator. However, in the wake of India’s unsatisfactory record of complying the IAEA safety regulatory framework, the current French-Indian nuclear nexus raises some fundamental questions: first, how far the installation of these reactors will fulfil the IAEA required safety regulations?

Second, in the given environmental decay of the South Asian region, not the expansion of these third generation nuclear reactors would fatally impact the regional climate?

Third, despite India’s irresponsible record of nuclear security and safety, does the French offer not escalate the growing nuclear threats in the region?

Fourth, does the French deal not reflect a double standard since India is not an NPT signatory state?

—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-international law analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of Washington Foreign Law Society and European Society of International Law.


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