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Friday, July 1, 2011

INDIAN NUCLEAR POWER PLANS: Destroying nuclear India!


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Bharat Karnad Last Updated : 30 Jun 2011 11:48:54 PM IST.

Manmohan Singh will be remembered, if at all, for the nuclear mess he quite deliberately led India into. Whatever his other failings, Singh understands the Congress’ political terrain well. Conscious that Rahul Gandhi was still wet behind his ears and lacking in political heft to be hoisted as prime minister by his mother, and that Congress president Sonia Gandhi did not trust Pranab Mukherjee not to do a Narasimha Rao if handed the top post, Singh played his trump card in Spring 2007. He dared Sonia Gandhi to order an ambivalent ruling party to support the nuclear deal on the anvil, or to accept his resignation.
The reasons why the United States desperately wanted the nuclear deal were as clear from the start, as the traps and pitfalls in it that the Indian government chose to disregard, despite being warned about them by a few of us, including some of the most respected veterans of the nuclear establishment, writing against it. It was in the interest of the US to both prevent India’s emergence as a comprehensive nuclear military power, because that would unsettle the status quo it presided over, and to draw it into the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty net. These aims were realised by Washington cleverly using India’s dated non-proliferation rhetoric and its professions of being a ‘responsible’ nuclear power against it, and flattering a gullible Manmohan Singh into converting the ‘voluntary moratorium’ on nuclear testing, thoughtlessly announced by the Bharatiya Janata Party prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, into a binding commitment to desist from testing again and to abide by the NPT norms. The other equally significant goal was to switch India from relying on the weaponisation-friendly plutonium (per the 3-stage plan drafted by Homi Bhabha in 1955 to achieve genuine energy and military security) to depending on the proliferation-resistant uranium fuelling imported reactors.
Manmohan Singh has thus jeopardised the country’s strategic nuclear security — because the 1998 thermonuclear test was a dud, absence of further testing will translate into unproven, unreliable, and unsafe fusion weapons and a strategic deterrent lacking in thermonuclear credibility, and ignored the home-grown solution for energy independence, envisaged by Bhabha, based on interlocked first stage pressurised heavy water reactors, second stage breeder reactors (now in the take-off phase), and third stage thorium reactors (the prototype ‘Kamini’ 40MW experimental operating in Kalpakkam, which requires more concept, design, and engineering work and upscaling). Instead, Manmohan Singh’s purchasing 40 foreign reactors worth $150 billion (at today’s dollar value) producing 40,000 MW of electricity by 2050, will at once sustain the nuclear industries in America, France and Russia, and provide Washington the handle to keep India in line. Resumption of testing, say, will prompt immediate cut-off of uranium fuel, resulting in rapid shutdown of foreign reactors and precipitous fall of power in the grid. All this apparently makes sense to our blinkered economist-prime minister.

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