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Indo-US nuke deal helped fuel domestic power plants, gave India access to critical tech: Experts

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The Indo-US nuclear cooperation agreement gave a fillip to the ties between the two nations, which since then have been on an upswing.

 

New Delhi | A decade after the historic Indo-US nuclear deal, experts said the pact did not lead to India setting up foreign-built reactors, but helped fuel domestic power plants and give access to critical technologies in strategic areas.

They also felt the pact, signed on October 10, 2008, gave India the recognition of being a responsible nuclear weapon state with strong non-proliferation credentials.

The Indo-US nuclear cooperation agreement gave a fillip to the ties between the two nations, which since then have been on an upswing.

India conducted a nuclear test in 1974, following which a torrent of sanctions hit the country’s defense, nuclear and space programmes hard.

“We knew that we had limitations on nuclear trade, so there was a need for progress within,” said Anil Kakodkar, the former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and former secretary, Department of Atomic Energy when the deal was signed.

India developed Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs), which are currently the backbone of the Indian nuclear power generation. In 1998, after conducting nuclear tests, India declared itself a nuclear weapon state.

“The feeling in the West was that the rationale behind sanctions did not hurt India’s nuclear military programme,” Kakodkar, who is also the member of the AEC, said.

On the other hand, as the number of nuclear reactors rose, the need for uranium hit the domestic reactors, adversely affecting their performance, said R K Sinha, the former chairman of AEC and former secretary, DAE.

“At that time, the concept of global warming was also gaining ground,” Kakodkar said, noting India required energy for its growing economy.

Sinha said by 2006-2007, the performance of Indian reactors had reduced 50-55 percent due to a shortage of nuclear fuel.

He also pointed out an instance of Rajasthan Atomic Power Plant (RAPS) unit 5, whose operations had to be delayed due to the shortage of uranium. The plant later went on to create a record of a continuous run of 765 days on Saturday at its full capacity of 220 MWe.

A major aspect of the Indo-US nuclear deal was the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) that gave a special waiver to India that enabled it to sign cooperation agreements with a dozen countries, said former diplomat Rakesh Sood and India’s special envoy of the Prime Minister for Disarmament and Non-proliferation Issues from 2013 to 2014.

The pact also enabled India to separate its civilian and military programmes. The country currently has 15 of its reactors under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Post waiver, India signed nuclear cooperation agreements for peaceful means with the US, France, Russia, Canada, Argentina, Australia, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom, Japan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, and Korea.

Following the pacts, there have been specific agreements for import of uranium from France, Kazakhstan, Australia, Canada, and Russia.

Sood said the long-term uranium arrangements enabled India to run the existing plants at 80 percent efficiency.

According to the responses by the government on questions in Parliament, India imported over 7841.51 metric tonnes of nuclear fuel from 2008-2009 to 2017-18.

Work is also on to create a uranium reserve by importing the element to ensure the power reactors under IAEA safeguards do not face fuel shortage.

The building of foreign nuclear reactors was a major aspect of the Indo-US deal. For this, two sites were earmarked—Mithi Virdi for General Electric Hitachi Nuclear Energy and Kovadda in Andhra Pradesh—for building 12 reactors.

M V Ramana, Professor and Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security Liu Institute for Global Issues School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia said in terms of building foreign reactors, despite the waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group, there was “absolutely no construction” at any sites identified for imported reactors.

“Even the government doesn’t have much hope that they would be importing large numbers of light water reactors anytime soon,” Ramana said.

Requesting anonymity, a former senior DAE scientist claimed the GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy is reluctant to take up the project citing the Civil Liability Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act, 2010.

In case of Westinghouse, it is yet to submit a techno-commercial offer, including “reasonable” tariff and a working reference plant. “Unless these criteria are not fulfilled, we will not be going ahead with the deal,” the scientist said.

In terms of electricity generation, nuclear power’s share of the total power production in the country in 2008 was 2.03 percent, which rose to 3.2 percent in 2017, Ramana said.

Another aspect which Kakodkar pointed out that the deal helped “build confidence” of other countries in India and the cooperation has now been extended to other areas like defense technology.

Kakodkar said after the deal India has joined three major control regimes like the export control regimes—the Missile Technical Control Regime, Wassenaar Arrangement, and Australia Group, while work is on for India’s entry into the elite NSG.

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Brexit Woes

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With just six weeks remaining before United Kingdom’s (UK) exit from the European Union (EU) termed as Brexit, Theresa May’s government does not seem to be making much progress and her opponents seem to be calling her out on this front. As Europe’s biggest crisis in decades stares it in the face and Britain, once its biggest and most powerful constituent seems to the on the ropes, the entire world is watching.

UK’s PM Theresa May suffered yet another blow from her parliament as legislators voted against her renegotiated deal with the EU. Just weeks after renegotiating the deal with European Union after MPs in the lower house voted 317 to 301 to order her to seek new terms with the bloc, she again failed to sell the deal to her parliament who on Thursday voted 303 to 258 against the motion. This paves the way for a no deal Brexit situation as the March 29st deadline is fast approaching. A no deal Brexit could have disastrous consequences for Britain in terms of loss of business, loss of jobs and not to mention the impact it can have on the pound.

For Britain to negotiate a successful Brexit deal, UK PM Theresa May must reach an agreement with the European Union and then get the same deal passed through her Parliament. Many in May’s own government do not view her as a strong leader and hence do not seem to be supporting her actions with opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn urging May to “admit her Brexit strategy has failed”.  May, however, shrugged off the latest defeat and termed it as a temporary difference of opinion and seems to be confident her strategy would see the light of day.

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China decries ‘political manipulations’ behind Huawei case in US

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Beijing | China on Tuesday decried the “political manipulations” behind the US case against Huawei as Washington indicted the tech giant’s chief financial officer and levelled sweeping charges against the company.

“For some time, the US has used state power to discredit and crack down on specific Chinese companies in an attempt to strangle the enterprises’ legitimate and legal operations,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

“There are strong political motivations and political manipulations behind the actions.”

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PAK, UAE sign USD 3 billion bailout package

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Islamabad | Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Tuesday signed a USD 3 billion bailout package, as part of Abu Dhabi’s support to boost the cash-strapped country’s dwindling dollar reserves.

The UAE in December last year had announced to provide USD 3 billion financial assistance to Pakistan after Saudi Arabia made a similar commitment to help Islamabad successfully overcome international payment crisis and to avoid a stringent International Monetary Fund (IMF) deal.

Tuesday’s agreement was signed between State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) chief Tariq Bajwa and Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) Director General Mohammed Saif Al Suwaidi.

“UAE has formalized US$3bn deposit in the State Bank of Pakistan. DG ADFD & the Governor SBP inked the agreement at #ADFD Headquarters in Abu Dhabi,” Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal tweeted.

He said the agreement will help Pakistan achieve financial stability and overcome economic challenges and noted ADFD’s support over the years to stimulate Pakistan’s economic growth and sustainable development.

Speaking on the occasion, Suwaidi said, “The directive to deposit USD 3 billion with the State Bank of Pakistan aligns with the UAE leadership’s keenness to bolster Pakistan’s economy, help its government achieve financial stability and overcome economic challenges, and drive comprehensive development in the country.”

He added, “ADFD and the Government of Pakistan have enjoyed strong and long-standing ties dating back to 1981. The Fund’s efforts have significantly contributed to improving socio-economic conditions in the country, boosting strategic growth and achieving the development priorities of the Pakistani government.

To date, ADFD has provided AED1.5 billion to fund sustainable development projects in Pakistan spanning diverse sectors, including transport, water and agriculture, healthcare, and education, according to a press release.

The UAE had committed the financial assistance during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Qatar last month to seek investment and provision of LNG on deferred payments.

Pakistan has a 15-year contract with Qatar for a supply of LNG.

The Saudi and the UAE governments have played a major role in helping Pakistan to meet around USD 12 billion shortfall in balance of payments in 2018-19 fiscal year, government officials said.

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