Tarapur: Against the background of the left parties opposition to the on-going dialogue on nuclear cooperation with the United States, the Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh today made it clear that the country would not back-track on the on-going the dialogue, while reiterating his government’s commitment to speeding up the indigenous nuclear power development and research programme.
Speaking at a ceremony to dedicate the Tarapur 3 and 4 power plants to the nation, the Prime Minister said, India would not depend on any one country for its future supply of nuclear fuel. “We will source supply from many of the countries in the Nulcear Suppliers Group including the United States, Japan, France and Russia. However, our nuclear cooperation with these countries cannot become effective until the nuclear Suppliers Group adapts its guidelines to enable nuclear commerce with India.”
Man Mohan Singh’s statement assumes significance in view of the severe opposition to the nuclear cooperation agreement between the India and the United States from both the Left parties that are a part of the ruling United Parties Alliance (UPA) as well as the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. The government on Thursday announced a review committee to look into the objections raised by all political parties to the nuclear deal.
The members of the committee are yet to be named.
Also present at the ceremony were the government’s lead negotiators in the nuclear deal, M.K. Narayanan, the National Security Advisor (NSA) and Dr Anil Kakodkar, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC).
Singh told an audience that included former AEC chairman M.R. Srinivasan and several former Nuclear Power Corporation of India chairmen that with the international cooperation the target for nuclear power generation the country can be doubled. The current target for nuclear power generation is 20,000 Mw by 2020. He said, “Even as we pursue our three-stage programme, it is necessary to look at augmenting our capabilities. We need to supplement our uranium supplies from elsewhere. We must take decisive steps to remove uncertainties that result from shortfall in fuel supplies to avoid disruptions in our nuclear production.”
Kakodkar is expected to travel to Vienna for the forthcoming IAEA meet starting September 17 and it is widely expected that he would also wrap up the final IAEA safeguards for Indian civilian nuclear installations during this visit. The safeguards will then have to be ratified by 45 member Nuclear Suppliers Group and will finally have to be ratified by the US Congress.
The issue of safeguards has had the Indian nuclear scientists community in a bind with several viewing it as surrender of the country’s sovereignty on the issue. It is also scheduled for a discussion in the Indian Parliament on the 7-8 of September.
“Once these and other steps are taken, India can commence civil nuclear cooperation with all the 45 members of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group. This will signal the end of our international isolation. India is now too important a country to remain outside the international mainstream in this critical area,” the Prime Minister said.
Reiterating his government’s commitment to the indigenous nuclear programme, the Prime Minister said, “India’s vast thorium resources will form the bed rock of our long term strategy. This unique thorium based technology will become economically viable over a period of time.”
In his speech Kakodkar pointed out that the next stage of the pressurized heavy water reactor technology was to upgrade the PHWR technology from 540 Mw reactors to 700Mw. Tarapur five and six have been planned as 700Mw PHWR reactors.
Indian nuclear programme’s roadmap, drawn up in the 1960s, is a three-stage programme aimed at utilizing the country’s vast thorium resources (about 40% of the world reserves of thorium are in India). While the first stage uses natural uranium as fuel (in pressurized heavy water reactors), the stage envisages using spent fuel (plutonium) from the first stage reactors. These fast breeder reactors use a thorium blanket, which would then provide the fuel for the third stage development. The thirds stage envisages the direct use of thorium as fuel.
Currently, India’s nuclear programme is on the threshold of the second stage – the indigenous design of a fast breeder reactor is being tested at Kalpakkam near Chennai and a prototype is expected to be operational by 2010. India has 17 PHWRs that are operative and five under construction. In addition, two light water reactors are also being built at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu with Russian collaboration.