Nuclear Deal should be scrapped forthwith
by Leo Rebello on 20 Jul 2008 0 Comment

Allegations of Rs.25 crores for buying each political horse notwithstanding, it seems almost certain that when the special session of Parliament begins on 22 July 2008, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his government will be ousted, owing to the ignominy attached to the clandestine nature of nuclear deal with USA, which Mr. Prakash Karat has rightly fittingly dubbed as: ‘Congress ka haath, USA ke saath’. This would be good riddance. A nation of one billion proud Indians cannot be taken for a ride due to the machinations of the business lobby and their controlled media.


The nuclear deal, over which the Left is shouting hoarse while the politically agile Dr. Amar Singh tries to shore up a dilapidated Congress, should be scrapped forthwith. India needs electricity for its citizens, not nuclear power. We must dispassionately examine why the nuclear deal is not good for India and the world; sadly, so far the debate has been one-dimensional.


Confidentiality: On the one hand, the Government is going ga-ga over bringing in the Right to Information Act to help citizens expose corrupt officialdom. On the hand, truth is dangerously concealed, even from people’s representatives in Parliament, on the issue of the N-deal, which will affect Indians for generations to come. A bogus agreement promising illusory energy security, the deal will prove to be the death-knell to our sovereignty, non-aligned movement, SAARC progressing into Asian Economic Council, and all that we have built over the years.


Context: Dr. A.N. Prasad, former director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Council (BARC), hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that all talk regarding “uninterrupted fuel supplies” and “corrective measures” if they fail, are mentioned only in the preamble references of the text, and do not form part of the operative portion of the agreement. In other words, they are meaningless in reality. A preamble is only an expression of pious intent. When it comes to legal niceties, it is the operative part of the agreement that counts. And here, Prasad points out: “There is no exit clause.” This means India can never walk away from the clutches of America. Prasad adds that the “corrective measures” seem limited going from one source of fuel to another, this is absurd since the Nuclear Suppliers Group functions as a cartel: “all for one and one for all”. That means there are NO corrective measures at all.


The Lobby: American Nuclear Energy plant manufacturers have a strong and rich lobby, which is the verge of extinction as it has had no market for the last 20 years. Hence India is being cajoled; if India succumbs, it may spur more demand from other countries, raise the lobby from imminent extinction to thriving business. It is pertinent that once the obsolete nuclear plants are sold to India and the US companies enriched, they will hide behind the Hyde Act. This means the thorium-cycle based technology independently developed by Indian scientists would be abandoned due to change in the power-cycle and under one or the other pretext, much like the manipulation of oil prices. America will also increase the costs and further increase India’s debt burden.


Thorium v/s Uranium: Energy experts know America lacks thorium-cycle technology, and is adamant that India not only gives them these secrets, but that India does not make any further progress in its independent technological areas. USA is trying to kill many birds with one stone. Sadly, the Indian establishment comprising major political parties and pro-US media are hiding these facts from the Indian people.


Control: The Hyde Act will exert control over India’s scientific progress; undermine India’s foreign policy by forcing India to indirectly support USA against Iran; reduce India to an unwilling partner in the likely attack on Iran, and thereby unleash Islamic fury against us. Far from emerging a strong nation by 2020, India would be reduced to play second fiddle to America by stunting our growth and international profile.


Destabilise: Once the N-deal agreement is formalised, the sinister CIA and FBI will seek a free run in India. America will seek military bases in India, and the world knows that once America occupies a space, it hardly ever leaves, witness the situation in Japan, the Philippines, Somalia, South Korea, et al.


Technology transfer: We don't need uranium; we don’t need bombs; we don’t need 123 agreement. India’s energy output can be doubled by using technology to raise the current efficiency of 50% in production to 95%.


Alternative technologies and Self-sufficiency: There are small Hydel, Wind-Energy, Sea-back-water Energy, Solar Energy, and other indigenously developed technologies waiting to be deployed to make India self-sufficient in energy sector. There is simply no need to turn towards discarded, unsafe nuclear energy. With adequate investments, alternative technologies will become the main technologies in less than 10 years.


Ram-Setu: We have enough raw material on our southern sea-banks, mixed with sand and vast reserves of thorium. In fact, the Ram-setu conspiracy should be viewed in this light, or this rich resource will be lost forever due to greed, ignorance or connivance of a few puny leaders, who rather than helping the country progress, further American interests.


Accidents: Nuclear Energy is neither clean, nor cheap, nor safe as is made out. Nuclear Plants are very costly and dangerous - Chernobyl, 3-Mile and Japanese nuclear accidents, for instance.


N-utilization: India’s current nuclear energy capacity utilization is less than 30%, yet we are going for additional nuclear plants which will take minimum seven years to start producing nuclear energy. Nuclear plants process uranium and plutonium, which are used to produce bombs. India has enough uranium, which could last another 50 years. An unstated aspect of the nuclear deal is the safety management of nuclear-waste whose half-life is over 28,000 years. This is a multi-million dollar industry in its own right, and we have not been told which American firm will secure these rights!


Old, Costly and Unsafe Technology: When Europe, Japan, Australia, Russia and the USA itself have stopped commissioning new nuclear plants for over two decades, why is India running after old, discarded and unsafe technology? Is there a scam here – we have the right to know?


Dr. David Victor, Director, Program on Energy and Sustainable Development, Stanford University, testifying before the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on 17 July 2006, noted inter alia that India has vast options to meet its energy needs in Hydroelectricity, Renewables, Natural Gas, Coal and Nuclear energy. He did not make a case for shifting to Nuclear energy. Briefly this is what Dr. Victor said:-


On Hydroelectric:  Official Indian plans call for much greater use of hydro…. [there are] possibilities of hydro imports from Bhutan and Nepal…. That means no shortage on energy front. On Renewables: India makes extensive use of biomass digesters in rural areas and wind and solar energy in a few states. On Natural Gas: Most analyses of the Indian power sector envisioned that gas would play a much larger role in the future. Gas is the cleanest of fossil fuels and the capital cost of gas plants much lower than nuclear, coal, and hydro. Gas plants have been especially attractive to private investors who are wary of sinking large amounts of capital into projects where regulatory rules are in flux. Nearly all foreign-owned private power plants in India are fired with gas.


On Nuclear: Until now, nuclear power has been controlled by the central government, mainly for non-energy purposes (weapons), and not exposed to commercial accountability…. So long as India’s nuclear industry remains isolated, it is hard to see that India will build more than the occasional reactor as the cost basis for nuclear equipment will be too high and fuel needed for such reactors will not be available….


On Coal: In the foreseeable future coal is expected to provide most of India’s electricity. In fact, coal has not met its full market potential in the last decade… India has (therefore) begun to encourage private investment into coalmines and pithead power plants that will send the coal “by wire” to the national electric grid rather than via railcars. India has adopted favourable rules to encourage investment in the inter-state power grid, enabling movement of much larger quantities of electricity. Changes in import tariffs are making it easier to import high quality coal, and also inducing India’s domestic coal industry to perform better. India is soliciting bids for five new 4 GW coal-fired power projects (“ultra mega power projects”) – two of which will produce electricity at coal pitheads in the interiors and three coastal plants that will import foreign coal supplies.


Dr. David Victor concluded: “The question for India’s energy future centers on the rivals to coal…. On the one hand, high prices have discouraged (but not stopped) investment in plants that use gas. Indeed, some investors who would have built gas-fired power plants are now looking closely at coal. On the other hand, barely a month passes without the announcement of new gas discoveries in India (in particular the large resources discovered off the country’s east cost). These new gas supplies may eventually help to lower the price of gas, which in turn will allow for a much larger gas-fired generation capacity”.


The UPA’s eagerness to finalize the nuclear deal is intriguing to say the least, especially as nuclear energy would meet only a small fraction of the country’s energy needs. India should improve its energy production regime using currently available technologies and take the production efficiency to a minimum of 95%. In concert with SAARC nations, India must invest heavily in non-conventional technologies and change the energy scenario within the decade.


Many experts who have studied the cloak-and-dagger Indo-US nuclear deal call it “No Clear Deal”. After Nagasaki-Hiroshima, three nuclear accidents, the Bhopal gas tragedy, and global warming, neither India nor the world needs to dabble with unsafe technologies and the destruction of civilization itself.  I conclude with a remark of late Indira Gandhi, who in the early 1970s said: “At present 97% of the world’s research is not relevant to us because it is earmarked for the priorities and to the induced appetites of technological leaders”. Will someone heed this profundity?

Dr. Leo Rebello is World Peace Envoy, International Association of Educators for World Peace


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