Nuclear Deal Requires Guts

According to Anil Kakodkar, Chairman Atomic Energy Commission and Secretary Department of Atomic Energy, currently the nuclear power plants in the country were working at half their capacity nearly of 4,000 MW due to the fuel shortage. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India is currently working on four 700-mega watts nuclear power plants and once the fuel linkages are finalised then the construction would begin. The short supply of uranium due to the slow process in opening up of new uranium mines. Uranium Corporation of India will soon be constructing a mine and a mill at Tummalapalli in Andhra Pradesh with a capacity of 1,50,000 tonnes per annum. Likewise, mining and milling was being looked at in the states of Rajasthan Karnataka and Meghalaya. Is India pursuing its nuclear programme with the amount of seriousness and professionalism that it requires? Should it not be the first and top priority of the government instead of keeping itself busy in finding out how could it put blame on the misdeeds of NDA government that went out four years ago?

A majority of reputed columnists and economists have been writing in favour of the Indo-US Deal and its national importance. Last week, Gurcharan Das in his regular Sunday column strongly appealed to LK Advani, the prime ministerial candidate of BJP. “If Advani seizes the day and persuades his BJP colleagues, he will go into history as the “white knight” that saved India’s energy and security future.” Mr. Das dramatized his column by creating imagery what the historians would write after 100 years from now. “History will narrate that the nuclear treaty never compromised India’s right to Pokhran III. China and France did nuclear tests in 2020, which ended the CTBT regime. India was by then the world’s third largest economy, and it followed up with its own test. The Democrats in America, instead of throwing the CTBT at India, were relieved to see India balance Chinese power in Asia.”

As it appears, if Man Mohan Singh becomes shrewd enough to touch some emotional chord of the old man satisfying his ego, Advani can single handedly rescue the Deal. The time is running out fast. The Leftists will never back the Deal. It is unfortunate that Congress still wishes to remain clinging to leftists who have their own priorities. I don’t foresee any political advantages coming to Congress. Many a times it appears to be against the national interest. Perhaps Sonia has failed to keep the nation’s priority ahead of her party’s interest. Like a shrewd politician, she would have met Advani and tried to get his support for the Deal in the interest of the nation.

As reported, the existing nuclear plants of the country are running at much lower efficiency because of the shortage of uranium, the fuel. Some new nuclear plants getting ready will not be commissioned because of the lack of the uranium. And unless the Deal is through, no one including Russia, will supply the uranium. Why should Sonia not follow the advice of so many intelligent people? Simultaneously, India must look into the internal sources of uranium too. According to a report, it is lethargy of the administration that India has not been able to mine uranium from its internal sources that are enough to run all of India’s current and planned nuclear power plants for their entire lifetime of 40 years.

As K. Subrahmanyam reveals, the grim situation on the availability of domestic uranium was known from the late 1950s and early 1960s and hence Homi Bhabha’s focus on the three-stage plan which in the final stage would use thorium, available in plenty in India. However, “the mature thorium technology is at least some 30-40 years away and to reach that, India has to pass through the first phase of 50,000 MW of light water and heavy water reactors and the second phase of fast breeders. India cannot do this unless it signs the nuclear deal with the US, concludes the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards and obtains a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).”

K. Subrahmanyam has also tried to emotionally enthuse Mrs. Gandhi to take some bold step to save the legacy of Rajiv Gandhi. “While the credit for conducting the tests may go to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the father of both the military nuclear progamme and the renewal of foreign civil nuclear cooperation is Rajiv Gandhi. People all over the country understand that the decision on nurturing Rajiv Gandhi’s legacy of the nuclear issue rests wholly with Sonia Gandhi. Let her pause and reflect on her own. Rajiv Gandhi’s legacy is at stake.”

Prem Shankar Jha has already written the obituary of the Deal with Obama win over Hillary. “What may be good news for America and most of the world is bad news for India. For if the Indo-US nuclear treaty was dying before, it is well and truly dead now. Obama has said with his characteristic bluntness that ‘India has taken us to the cleaners’. As a result, even if the Manmohan Singh government musters the resolve to sign the safeguards agreement with the IAEA now, it is a safe bet that in the few months of the Bush administration that remain, no state department official will stick his or her neck out to push for a special meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, much less exert American influence to make it lift the embargo on the supply of sensitive technology to India.”

With time running out, both Sonia Gandhi and LK Advani must hear the intelligensia of the country and save the energy crisis of the country forever. Simultaneously, the Deal will take out the scientists’ community of India out of ‘untouchable’ category created by the nuclear powers. Unfortunately, there is no reservation based on population for uranium by any global body that can keep India’s nuclear programme running.

Let Sonia and Man Mohan show the gut and Advani his statesmanship, or switch over to the obituary of the Deal with a prayer for some light in near future.

How shameful? Australia not to sell uranium to India
And PM does not have luxury to limit options of energy.

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