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Thursday, December 10, 2009

THE HYDE ACT: A Prospective Perspective

The Hyde Act is considered by some as a “nuclear triumph” for India, while some dub it as an infringement on her sovereign rights. It is strongly believed that the “growth constraint would by and large be removed for civilian nuclear power if the ultimate agreement emerges out as wished for.” Nevertheless, we must look at the Hyde Act with an eye on the future rather than being bogged down by the sour past of the bilateral relations. While not succumbing to “outside pressure”, we should look at the Deal from the perspective of “paying something to get something in return”. And its execution calls for “statesmanship” at every level of governance on both the sides. Keywords: Hyde Act; Nuclear Power; India’s Nuclear Policy; US-India Relations; Energy Security; the CND and Economic Growth.

         President George W. Bush, while signing the “Henry J. Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act” that allows the US to share its nuclear know-how and fuel with India—which is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty—said: “By helping India expand its use of safe nuclear energy, this bill lays the foundation for a new strategic partnership between our two nations that help ease India’s demands for fossil fuels and ease pressure on global markets.” He praised India highly by saying that it has “conducted its civilian nuclear energy programme in a safe and responsible way for decades” and “now, in return for access to American technology, India has agreed to open its civilian nuclear power programme to international inspection.” As against this visible jubilation displayed in the US at the signing of the Act, all is not that well-received in India—at least in some quarters—and of course, for reasons galore. India’s expectations regarding “technology transfers pertaining to civil nuclear energy, ranging from nuclear fuel, nuclear reactors, to reprocessing spent fuel,” etc. being not fulfilled to the extent expected appears to have dismayed them mostly. The most visible displeasure is expressed by the clan of nuclear scientists—both present and past—and perhaps, rightly too. The elite of the country—the civil servants, particularly those from foreign services—have similarly echoed strong resentment against the bill. Understandably, a section of political parties of the country too aired their misgivings over nuclear cooperation with the US.
The major source of misgivings for the country’s nuclear scientists under the Hyde Act, essentially rests on:1  
a) Ambiguity about India’s access to “enrichment and reprocessing technology”; 
b) Requirement of case by case approval for India to reprocess the spent fuel resulting from the uranium imported from the US;
c) Provision for termination of nuclear cooperation in the event of India conducting nuclear test and the consequent need for it to return all the equipment and materials already imported under its provisions;
d)Its subtle pointer that India should work in consort with the US on proliferation and disarmament issues.

        All these restrictive provisions obviously—as Placid Rodriguez, former Director of Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research observed—made our nuclear scientists perceive the Act as “an affront to the self-respect and sovereignty of India.2
        That apart, for the civil nuclear trade envisaged under the Act to take place, three more hurdles are to be overcome: one, the US and Indian officials have to draft a separate nuclear cooperation agreement—which indeed becomes the operating manual; two, the US must secure an exception for India in the rules of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG); and three, India must also finalise a safeguard agreement with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Against this background, this paper makes an attempt to examine the listed “irritants” under the Act from a perspective of common man’s understanding of our accomplishments in the nuclear arena and the likely progress thereof; assess their impact on India’s prospects to harness nuclear energy for power generation so as to sustain its ambitious economic growth rate of over 8% plus (without choking the environment further) and; at the same time, maintaining our “minimum deterrence”. The rest of the paper is organised into following sections: India’s nuclear policy; Nuclear power generation: current status; Economic growth and energy constraints; What is  judging us towards the Hyde Act; and Discussions and conclusion.


         Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, was of the firm opinion that “to remain abreast of the world”, India must “develop atomic energy”. Indeed he was very clear in his thoughts about the use of atomic energy when he said: “I do not know how to distinguish the two (peaceful and defence purposes). I think we must develop it for peaceful purposes. Of course, if we are compelled as a nation to use it for other purposes, possibly no pious sentiments will stop the nation from using it that way.”3 Accordingly, he along with Homi Bhabha, a distinguished Physicist, played a leading role in drafting India’s nuclear programme, as a part of which the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was established in 1948.4 This was followed by the establishment of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) in 1954 to execute the policies and programmes of the AEC. Right from the beginning, the Indian nuclear research spread its interest across the entire nuclear fuel cycle. Accordingly, in course of time, the DAE established many subsidiaries: five research centres; five Government-owned bodies/companies—Nuclear Power Corporation to design, construct and operate nuclear power plants, Bhavini to run breeder reactors, Uranium Corporation of India Ltd. to mine and mill the uranium, Heavy Water Board to run heavy water plants, and Nuclear Fuel Complex to manufacture nuclear fuel for reactors. It has also established the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board in 1983 to oversee and enforce safety in all nuclear operations. The first indigenous research reactor, Apsara—a “swimming pool reactor”— of 1 MWe was established with the technical assistance of UK, which became critical in August 1956 with the enriched uranium fuel rods supplied by the UK. The second reactor, CIRUS—a 40 MWe heavy water moderated, light water cooled, natural uranium fuelled reactor that was supplied by Canada under Colombo Plan during 1955, became critical with the heavy water supplied by the US subsequently. This reactor was considered an efficient producer of plutonium, for it has high neutron economy. The plant for separating plutonium from the spent fuel rods irradiated at the CIRUS reactor was designed and constructed at Trombay by an American firm—Vitro International. By 1964, we acquired the capacity to extract plutonium at Trombay from the spent fuel of CIRUS reactor. During the same period of 1954-74, as many as 1,104 Indian nuclear scientists were trained in the US and another 263 were trained in Canada.5 The heavy water production facility built at Nangal with German assistance became functional in 1962 and seven more plants were built by 1991. Over a period of time, India could thus develop its own facilities for mining uranium, fabricating fuel, manufacturing heavy water, reprocessing spent fuel to extract plutonium and enriching uranium, though on a small scale, but at a heavy cost.6 These costs have obviously gone up further with India’s first “peaceful nuclear explosion” of 1974. There were also political costs. Consequently, the US  and Canada were the first to cut-off all material assistance, besides taking active role in establishing NSG to regulate transfer of technology and fuel to India’s nuclear programme. Despite decades of isolation from the international nuclear scientists, our nuclear programme made a steady progress and that is what is reflected in the statement of Ashley J. Tellis: “Today, with two research reactors dedicated solely to produce weapons-grade plutonium and eight un-safeguarded Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) which can produce weapons-grade plutonium, India is well set to produce a much larger number of nuclear weapons.”9 That being the sum and substance of our accomplishments under nuclear research even under such isolation, one tends to wonder: what could have been our progress, if only we had enjoyed access to the international nuclear commerce as in the 1950s and 1960s.


                According to M. R. Srinivasan10, the raison d’etre of the DAE was to develop nuclear energy to assist in the economic development of the country. Taking into consideration the available energy resources in the country, and the energy needs of the growing population, Homi Bhabha articulated at the first United Nations Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy held in Geneva in 1955 that India had to necessarily harness nuclear energy in a big way to meet its energy needs. Looking at the poor deposits of uranium in the country and being encouraged by huge thorium deposits, Bhabha proposed a three-stage programme to meet the energy needs of the nation: 
i) First stage involves usage of uranium fuel in heavy water reactors for producing power and plutonium by reprocessing the irradiated spent fuel.
ii) Second stage involves usage of the plutonium reprocessed from the spent fuel under stage I in the nuclear cores of Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs). These nuclear cores could be surrounded by either uranium or thorium to produce more plutonium or uranium-233, which are required for the third stage. Also, here it is required to be noted that thorium is not a fissile material and hence it must first be converted to uranium-233 for using it as a fuel. In view of this, technology under enrichment and reprocessing of spent fuel has become mission-critical for implementing India’s three-stage programme as envisioned by Homi Bhabha.
iii) Third stage involves breeder reactors using the resulting uranium-233 in their cores and thorium in their blankets to generate two-thirds of that reactor’s output from thorium itself.  
The central idea of the three-stage programme is to ensure that India’s natural uranium constraints would have no impact whatsoever on the ultimate energy production in the country till the second and third stage technologies are perfected. Based on these policy guidelines, Bhabha predicted that by 1980, India would produce 8,000 MWe nuclear power. In 1962, it was predicted that nuclear energy would generate 20-25,000 MWe of nuclear power by 1980 and the same was further revised to 43,500 MW by 2000.11 The first nuclear power plant in India—160 MWe Tarapur 1 and Tarapur 2— were built with the assistance of the US and were connected to the grid in 1969. The Canadian-built 100 MWe Rajasthan 1 nuclear power reactor became operational in 1972. Following cessation of fuel supplies from the US, France supplied 50,000 SWU/year of low-enriched uranium in 1982 for use at Tarapur reactors. In July 1983, 170 MWe Madras 1 reactor, a copy of the Canadian-supplied Rajasthan 1 reactor, became operational. In 1989, the Narora 1, 220 MWe PHWR became operational. In October 2004, the commercial phase of FBR programme was initiated by taking up construction work of the 500 MWe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR). The first unit of Kudankulam nuclear power project in Tamil Nadu—a 320 metric ton reactor—was delivered by Russia in January 2005. Thus, we are, today operating 15 nuclear power reactors and 8 more are under construction. Out of this total of 23 nuclear plants, 18 are PHWRs, 2 are the US Supplied Boiling Water Reactors at Tarapur, 2 are the Pressurised Water Reactors being built at Kudankulam with Russian assistance and the remaining 1 is a PFBR of our own design12. All this however makes a significant revelation: Indian nuclear energy programme was never independent of external assistance. Similar observations were made by Kanti Bajpai and M.V. Ramana. Despite these efforts and the international collaboration that India enjoyed before the 1974 “peaceful nuclear explosion”, we failed to achieve the nuclear power generation targets we have set for ourselves. As envisaged under Homi Bhabha plan, if we are to switch over to our second and third stages of power production, we need to build and operate a sufficient number of PHWRs, so that we could produce adequate plutonium that can facilitate migration to the second stage of the breeder programme. But the reality is that we had a severe shortage of natural uranium to feed even the existing 18 PHWRs. It is said that the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd.—the corporate body responsible for generating nuclear power—is lowering the power production in the existing plants to tide over the crunch in the supply of natural uranium fuel.13 Even the Planning Commission has admitted that “primarily due to non-availability of nuclear fuel, plant load factors for nuclear plants have gone down to 73.70% in 2003-04, after  reaching a high of 79.40% in 2001-02.”14 
           As against this increasing demand for fissile fuel, uranium obtained from Jaduguda mines is of very low grade and consequently, its production proved to be 6 to 7 times more costly compared to international prices. At the same time, the other identified mines at West Khasi Hills of Meghalaya and Nalgonda in Andhra Pradesh could not be mined due to stiff public resistance.15 Besides that, India is banned from purchasing natural uranium from the international market owing to NSG restrictions. Indeed it is this shortage of uranium that is perhaps holding us back from pushing forward to operationalise the three-stage programme of nuclear power generation envisaged by Homi Bhabha, and achieve the targets set under nuclear power generation.16 
           The net result is: despite the fact of the DAE promoting nuclear power as the “obvious choice for India to solve its energy problems in the long run”,17 the total installed nuclear power generation capacity as of January 2005 stood at 2,770 MWs, which is less than 3% of the total installed capacity for electricity generation of the country. The second phase under Bhabha’s programme is still in experimental stage and even if the experimental breeder reactor becomes fully functional, they may not assure major share in electricity production for several more decades. This obviously pushes the third stage thorium fuel cycle still further into the future.18 


              India has been experiencing an average growth rate of 6% per annum for the last 2-3 decades. In the recent past, our growth rate has indeed been dubbed as one of the world’s fastest growing economies. According to Pranab Mukherjee, Minister of Defence, India is a “heavily energy deficient country.” Our per capita electricity consumption—which is an indicator of human and economic development —is one-fifth of the world average. Our electricity consumption is growing at around 6% annually. Hence, there is a need to increase its production by an additional 2,00,000 MW by 2025. According to Kirit Parikh, Member, Planning Commission, “if India grows at 8-9%, it will need at least 4 to 5 times the energy that it currently consumes by 2030-31." I
        In his presentation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on 27 June 2005, Pranab Mukherjee observed that India’s economic progress is heavily dependent on energy and any deficit in it is likely to derail it. He is of the opinion that at the current growth rate of 8% in GDP per year, the increase in oil demand could be around 6% per annum and thus our dependency on oil imports may touch 85% in the coming two decades. He, therefore, opines that if India has to realise its economic potential it must exploit alternative sources of energy. And according to him, the foremost among them is the nuclear energy. Although India has indigenously developed technologies meant for generation of nuclear power, it is still facing “serious impediments of access to materials and components”. He even considers “technology control regimes” going back to the cold war era as one of the prime reasons for the economic gap between India and other comparable countries. And he termed such restrictions against India as “anachronistic”. He also said that easing of these restrictions will impact our economic prospects favourably in the next 2 to 3 decades. He is however happy that today the US and India—“the estranged democracies”—realised their “shared common values, security concerns and that there is an objective convergence of interests”. Indeed he made his mind clear when he answered Gopal Ratnam’s (a Washington-based press reporter) question: “There should not be any restrictions and particularly in the case of India” and thus he subtly endorsed the Indo-US Nuclear Deal as a necessary tool for India’s economic progress.19 
         As against Pranab Mukherjee’s preference for nuclear power to ensure a reliable supply of energy to all at affordable cost, according to Ramana and others, nuclear power doesn’t appear to be cost competitive—particularly, production through our heavy water reactors.20 They have indeed concluded that nuclear power plants in India, “have been and remain a costlier way of trying to address India’s electricity needs than through coal-based thermal plants”. It is worth remembering here that US has installed no new nuclear power capacity for the past three decades owing to the fact of high costs and unresolved technological problems in waste management.21 However, in the recent past, nuclear power is emerging as a better solution to solve energy problem22 more due to the alarm raised by the threat of climate change. But the experience of countries like France and Japan, where the share of nuclear power is considerable, reveals that unless Governments subsidise their production, nuclear power generation cannot survive on its own. It is perhaps in order to quote here what the International Energy Agency reports say: biomass, wind, solar and other non- (large) hydropower renewables are likely to be exploited by OECD countries as primary sources of energy.23 According to M.V. Ramana, the second and third stages of India’s nuclear power generation may prove more expensive as fuel to the breeder reactors has to be obtained through “reprocessing”. Secondly, erecting breeder reactors itself will be more capital-intensive besides, involving more operational and maintenance costs, as safety requirements are greater. The obvious end result is: expensive power.24
           All this means that if India has to increase its share of nuclear power to the total energy production in the country, it has to commit huge resources that, too, at the expense of its other essential commitments like employment generation, rural education and health, and creation of rural infrastructure for eradicating poverty. Not only that, such locking of funds for long time may weaken our attempt to explore alternatives—at least that is what our past behaviour indicates. Owing to our exclusion from international nuclear commerce since the 1970s, our commitment to the three-stage nuclear programme of Bhabha has only hardened despite the fact that this plan is prohibitively costly, and terribly slow (since reprocessing is pretty expensive and fast reactors breed plutonium very slowly).25 Secondly, so long as natural uranium is cheap in the international market, no country will bother about commercialising “thorium cycle”. So, India has to undertake the necessary research on its own with whatever technological and financial strengths that are at its command26 and in fact that is what we have been doing ardently. No wonder, if the same obsession for singularly pursuing what Bhabha proposed as a means for India’s energy security, is today not letting us to see the rationality behind the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, which of course is an altogether a different matter. The sum and substance of these arguments and counter-arguments makes two things clear. One, India is starving for energy and two if it has to sustain its current rate of economic growth of 8% plus, it must increase its electricity production, without choking the environment further. It means erection of nuclear reactors of global standards and size is perhaps inevitable. According to the President of the US-India Business Council, India will require an FDI of $100 bn for installing world standard reactors under its nuclear programme. Thus arises the question of availability of capital, which incidentally is not a big constraint in today’s world of free flowing capital across sovereign boundaries. But its realization calls for right relations of “inclusiveness” with the external world and that’s what Pranab Mukherjee asked for in his presentation at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.27 This is certainly a wake-up call for the country as a whole to come out of its hibernation that was induced by the Cold War “control regime” and look at the Hyde Act from a larger perspective. 


         India has been suffering from “technology control regimes” for more than three decades, which has indeed played havoc with our economic progress. Its impact at its worst could be seen under our nuclear programme. According to M.R. Srinivasan and others, India, though is one among the top ten countries in production of electricity, it is no where near the top in the field of nuclear power generation.28 But looking to our nuclear fuel resource position, and if we have to increase the share of nuclear power generation, we have an urgency in mastering fast reactor programmes and the closed fuel cycle.29 But according to a French study30, industrial deployment of a first series of fast reactors may take another three decades. Over and above this, India has to develop technology for using thorium, which again is considered a difficult process to master.31 In view of this, one is forced to infer that developing such technologies indigenously will take its own time.32 Despite our scientific progress under this head being “on course” as commented upon,33 it makes great sense to join the NSG countries, which is possible only under the Hyde Act. According to Anshu Bharadwaj and others, we have very little experience in designing, erecting and managing light water reactors that use enriched uranium as fuel, except for Tarapur reactor that was commissioned in 1969.34 Therefore, we can only have them through foreign collaboration as is happening in the case of Kudankulam nuclear power plant that is coming up with Russian collaboration. It is thus obvious that unless we have more such collaborations with countries like Russia, France, etc., which again is possible only upon our getting admitted into NSG, we would not be able to build more LWRs of high capacity, which is essential to minimise the capital costs and produce electricity at economic prices. Even to overcome our present difficulties associated with commercialising FBRs and thorium reactors, we need access to international markets for the supply of uranium. Such import of fuel and access to the technology for building LWRs through technical collaboration alone can hasten and enhance our nuclear power production capability.  Similarly, by increasing the production capacities of LWRs to 1,000 MWe with the collaboration of France and Germany, who are pioneers in the field, India can quickly overcome the mighty technological challenges that we are facing today. That’s where the current Nuclear Deal with the US comes in handy. It could become a gateway. Our third stage programme of nuclear energy generation entails construction of thorium cycle reactors. This involves, conversion of thorium to uranium-233 before being fed as fuel. This is possible in two ways: one, by irradiating thorium fuel rods in reactors and, two, by conversion through accelerators, but this is not a part of our programme.35 It means, we have to depend on advanced heavy water reactors with thorium and plutonium as fuels and this involves greater complexity, for handling and fabrication of uranium-233 fuel rods exposes to high gama activity. Interactions with other scientists from NSG countries is a clear advantage here and this is again feasible only when we are out of the NSG restrictions. To cap it all, of all people A. Gopalakrishnan, former Chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, made the significance of Indo-US Nuclear Deal for India’s further progress in nuclear power generation very clear when he said: We have been operating a 13 MWe FBTR supplied by France in the early 1970s, at about one-third of its rated power level for a few years. Based on the experience so gained from its operation and our own research efforts made under fast breeder technology, we have plunged into designing and building a 500 MWe commercial scale PFBR. This kind of reactors are known to function at much higher temperatures with substantially greater plutonium inventories vis-à-vis PHWRs. It means that they are more risky than the reactors we are currently managing. It is precisely for this reason that the international experts opine that we are taking a greater risk in going for PFBR with so little experience of our own in that field.36
-->Our scientists may not however endorse this view. Nevertheless, pride and overconfidence should not be allowed to come in the way of working for safety that, too, while handling plutonium-based reactors.37  It is in this context that the Act becomes more relevant. It enables Indian scientists to openly interact with nuclear scientists from France, Russia and Japan, who are more experienced in managing FBRs and thereby strengthen our design and maintenance competencies. Our scientists may not however endorse this view. Nevertheless, pride and overconfidence should not be allowed to come in the way of working for safety that, too, while handling plutonium-based reactors.

            Having analysed the progress of nuclear sciences in India since Independence —our successes and failures in implementing our three-stage nuclear power programme, the role of external assistance in whatever success we have achieved, the adverse impact of “technology control regimes” on our nuclear programmes in particular and economic progress in general—let us proceed to examine the “irritants” under the Hyde Act as aired by our elite. M. R. Srinivasan argued that “reprocessing will be an important activity of its (India’s) nuclear energy programme” and hence “denial of access to certain equipment or materials required by India even when these activities are under IAEA safeguards, would be most unreasonable.”38per se. Even that should not be a real problem, for he also points out that there are “some exceptions on enrichment and reprocessing technologies are permitted in the Hyde Act.”39 It is in order to recall here that there are eight PHWRs and one FBR that are outside the purview of safeguards, which means, we will have enough reserves of reactor-grade plutonium for feeding our FBRs. The same could also be used for tritium production with the technology we have already mastered and thereby if situation warrants—weapons production becomes important than the energy security—we can still exercise our sovereign rights to protect our autonomy of action. Intriguingly, in the same vein he also averred: “(re) process designs will no doubt be an Indian activity.” If this is read along with the facts we have examined in the preceding sections, one is compelled to conclude that he is only referring to the “spent fuel” and its availability or non-availability, but not the “reprocessing technology”  That aside, there is another inherent advantage in the Hyde Act that we can capitalise on. With the new knowledge acquired from using the reactors of global standard and size, that we could import once the Act becomes operable, we can diligently plan for designing, erecting and maintaining our own power plants using internal supplies of uranium. And according to Ashley J. Tellis, India has no problem of natural uranium supply from within the country, and can therefore produce sufficient plutonium so as to switch over to our prophesied thorium model. To put it in other words, consequent to our free access to international technology, we can improve our understanding of the technology associated with various stages of fuel cycle, which shall in turn better our management of these processes. We are thus not losing anything by the current Deal, while we have all the scope to improve our competency by skilfully working towards upgradation of our technological capabilities by being in the nuclear club—the outcome of which, of course squarely rests on our “statecraft”. 
            Zia Mian and M.V. Ramana argue that India needs neither nuclear energy for its economic development nor does it need nuclear weapons to live in peace with its neighbours and hence conclude that the Nuclear Deal is of no relevance except that it could at best make India “a nuclear power and nuclear-armed” country that “swaggers along in the shadow of the US.”40
-->Going by this argument, we can conclude that the Deal is not going to make us either one-up or worse off in terms of nuclear energy or nuclear-deterrence. Even if we accept the argument of some of our scientists that the Deal is embedded with many restrictions, it is not going to make our position further worse than what we are facing today by virtue of our isolation from the nuclear suppliers group of countries. According to Kanti Bajpai, Indian nuclear programme “was never completely independent”, for it “flourished with international help from its inception”. All that assistance came from the US, Canada and the Russians. Thus, he strongly believes that by entering into an agreement with the US under the Act doesn’t amount to India losing its independence in nuclear matters. He strongly advocates that “the demands of safety and economy lead us ineluctably in the direction of international involvement which could not be had without US recognition of our status which is contingent on the kinds of obligations India has accepted. In terms of dealing with the US, there has scarcely ever been a better time strategically and politically”.41 As M. R. Srinivasan observed, autarchic growth (especially in nuclear sciences) is not the preferred path for development of technology. Since an entry into the NSG is offered under the Act, India should enter the new face of international partnership as a matured and self-confident player, rather than getting bogged down with all kinds of apprehensions. We must realise that the current agreement cannot make things worse than what they were, and if at all, it can only lead to better prospects—all depending on how we use “statecraft” to advance our national interests. Secondly, our integration with the global nuclear industry’s research is sure to enhance our own research capabilities, besides hastening such bindings of “competency”. Thirdly, such integration and the resultant free flow of scientific knowledge is potential to insure us from the plausible failures in the pursuit of our third stage nuclear energy programme, all on our own. In the early 1990s, when India made an attempt to integrate its economy with that of the globe, a number of Indian business houses came together—whom the media dubbed as “Bombay Club”—and opposed opening up of our economy.42 They questioned the very liberalisation as it would destroy India’s indigenous industry. They, citing the example of Korea, asked for more Government help to strengthen their competency to face global competition by bringing down tariffs very slowly and limiting the inflow of foreign investment into the country. However, economic reforms have taken deep roots by now. We are witnessing a tremendous element of “can do” feeling among the very same industrial houses, which are incidentally on an acquisition spree in the global markets. The current “displeasure” expressed by the nuclear scientists over the Hyde Act sounds similar to what the country witnessed from the business pundits when economic reforms were launched in early 1990s. Is the success achieved under economic reforms anecdotal evidence for the possible success of our nuclear programme under the Hyde Act? Going by this argument, we can conclude that the Deal is not going to make us either one-up or worse off in terms of nuclear energy or nuclear-deterrence. Even if we accept the argument of some of our scientists that the Deal is embedded with many restrictions, it is not going to make our position further worse than what we are facing today by virtue of our isolation from the nuclear suppliers group of countries. According to Kanti Bajpai, Indian nuclear programme “was never completely independent”, for it “flourished with international help from its inception”. All that assistance came from the US, Canada and the Russians. Thus, he strongly believes that by entering into an agreement with the US under the Act doesn’t amount to India losing its independence in nuclear matters. He strongly advocates that “the demands of safety and economy lead us ineluctably in the direction of international involvement which could not be had without US recognition of our status which is contingent on the kinds of obligations India has accepted. In terms of dealing with the US, there has scarcely ever been a better time strategically and politically”. If only our statesmen can steer India through this new-found opportunity thrown open under the Nuclear Deal “to forge a critical geopolitical relationship” with the US and thereby, ensure “reliable access to technology” and leverage on it for its economic growth, all this anger or dismay against the Act would automatically subside. But to achieve that the country has to take a risk—risk of looking into future with confidence and courage—for nothing comes of nothing. That is where the current Nuclear Deal pops up as lever to lift India into new horizons of technology and economic welfare. Once economic might is built, no country, including the US can bend the rules unilaterally, nor could anyone influence our external relations that are against our interests.  
         Lastly, it is pertinent to bear in mind that in negotiations, we cannot expect everything that we wish to have to fall in our lap nor should we wait for that to happen. Statesmanship lies in quickly grabbing whatever little advantage that is offered and work for bettering it from the new-found strength. On any count, the Hyde Act simply offers us a unique opportunity to come out of the protracted nuclear isolation, which is a must for us to economically progress rapidly. This coming out is sure to ultimately enable us to influence nuclear and other global regimes and get engaged with the global powers. Let us not forget that Hyde Act is an American law and it cannot bind the rest of the NSG countries once we are in it and build up the necessary clout to wean them to our side. That is what international relations are about. Incidentally, markets are agog with reports that NSG countries such as Russia, France, etc. are eager to sell their technology, reactors, fuel, etc. to India, once the current embargo is lifted. Recently, Moscow has agreed “in principle” to add more reactors to the 2x1000 MWe units at the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu, now under construction. Further, the Russian Minister of Atomic Energy gave assurance that Moscow would supply fuel for the reactors being built at Kudankulam through out their life.43 This announcement perhaps foretells of things to come, once India gets integrated with global nuclear commerce. That aside, it is in order to take note of the statement made by Valdimir Putin, President of Russia, in his recent visit to India, for it amplifies the significance of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal: “We stand ready to support our Indian friends, certainly with the proviso that Russia will fulfil the obligations and commitments made in the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.”44 What it implies is that we must come out of our current isolation from global nuclear commerce, which is possible through the Hyde Act. Even otherwise, as times keep changing, we have to avail this opportunity to be on the “right side of history”.   

- GRK Murty


1. “Hyde Act and Nuclear Scientists’ Note,” The Hindu, 16 December 2006; M. R. Srinivasan, “India May Lose Control of its Nuclear Future,” The Hindu, 14 December 2006; M. R. Srinivasan, “Remember Lessons from Tarapur,” The Hindu, 27 December 2006.
2. Placid Rodriguez, “The Nuclear Deal: What If It Falls Through,” The Hindu, 28 February 2006, p. 12.
3. Constituent Assembly of India (Legislative Debates) 2d sess., Vol. 5, 6 April 1948, pp. 3315, 3328, 3333-34, cited in George Perkovich, India’s Nuclear Bomb: The Impact on Global Proliferation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), p. 18.
4. Zia Mian and M. V. Ramana, “Feeding the Nuclear Fire,” Economic and Political Weekly (27 August-2 september 2005).
5. Perkovich, India’s Nuclear Bomb.
6. M. V. Ramana, “Nuclear Power in India: Failed Past, Dubious Future,” A Presentation at the Non-proliferation Policy Education Centre, 10 May 2006. Reference # 47J-2006-03-05-01
7. “India Nuclear Milestones: 1945-2005,” The Risk Report, Vol. II no. 6 (November-December 2005),
8. M. R. Srinivasan, “Nuclear Accord: Challenge and Opportunity,” Economic and Political Weekly, 27 August 2005.
9. Ashley J. Tellis, Atoms for War? US-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation and India’s Nuclear Arsenal (Washington DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2006).
10. Srinivasan, “Nuclear Accord: Challenge and Opportunity.”
11. Mian and Ramana, “Feeding the Nuclear Fire.”
12. A. Gopalakrishnan, “Indo-US Nuclear Cooperation—A Non-Starter?”, Economic and Political Weekly, 2 July 2005.
13. Gopalakrishnan, “Indo-US Nuclear Cooperation.”
14. Planning Commission, Mid-Term Appraisal of the Tenth Five Year Plan, 2002-2007 (New Delhi: Government of India, 2004), pp. 329-330.
15. Xavier Dias, “DAE’s Gambit,” Economic and Political Weekly, 6 August 2005.
16. Gopalakrishnan, “Indo-US Nuclear Cooperation.”
17. “Atomic Energy Obvious Choice for India: Interview with S. B. Bhoje, Director, IGCAR,” Frontline, 30 March 2001.
18. Mian and Ramana, “Feeding the Nuclear Fire.”
19. Pranab Mukherjee, “India’s Strategic Perspective,” Presentation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, D.C., 27 June 2005.
20. M.V. Ramana, Antonette D’Sa, Amulya K. N. Reddy, “Economics of Nuclear Power from Heavy Water Reactors,” Economic and Political Weekly, 23 April 2005.
21. A. Makhijani, and S. Saheska, Nuclear Power Deception (New York: Apex Press, 1999).
22. P. Stoctt, “Toward Renewed Legitimacy? Nuclear Power, Global Warming, and Security,” Global Environmental Politics, Vol. 3 no. 1, February 2003.
23. IEA, Renewable Energy (Paris: International Energy Agency, 2002).
24. Ramana, “Nuclear Power in India.”
25. Rahul Tongia and V. S. Arunachalam, “India’s Nuclear Breeders: Technology, Viability, and Options,” Current Science, Vol. 75 no. 6 (1998).
26. T. S. Subramanian, “A Debate Over Breeder Reactors,” Frontline, Vol. 15 no. 25 (5-18 December 1998).
27. Mukherjee, “India’s Strategic Perspective.”
28. M. R. Srinivasan, R. B. Grover, S. A. Bhardwaj, “Nuclear Power in India: Winds of Change,” Economic and Political Weekly, 3 December 2005.
29. Srinivasan, Grover, Bhardwaj, “Nuclear Power in India.”
30. Frank, Carre, “Fast Reactors R&D Strategy in France for a Sustainable Energy Supply and Reduction of Environmental Burdens”. JAIF International Symposium, Tokyo, 24 March—as quoted in Srinivasan, Grover, Bhardwaj—“Nuclear Power in India.”
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Reactor,” to be published in Nuclear Engineering and Design—as quoted in Srinivasan, Grover, Bhardwaj—“Nuclear Power in India.”
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33. Pallava Bagla, “India’s Home Grown Thorium Reactor,” Science, Vol. 309 (19 August 2005), pp. 1174-75.
34. Anshu Bharadwaj, Rahul Tongia, V. S. Arunachalam, “Whither Nuclear Power?” Economic and Political Weekly, 25 March 2006.
35. Bharadwaj, Tongia, Arunachalam, “Whither Nuclear Power?”
36. Gopalakrishnan, “Indo-US Nuclear Cooperation.”
37. Gopalakrishnan, “Indo-US Nuclear Cooperation.”
38. Srinivasan, “India May Lose Control of its Nuclear Future.”
39. Srinivasan, “India May Lose Control of its Nuclear Future.”
40. Mian and Ramana, “Feeding the Nuclear Fire.”
41. Kanti Bajpai, “Where are India and the US Heading?” Economic and Political Weekly, 6 August 2005.
42. Stanley Kochanek, “Liberalisation and Business Lobbying in India,” Journal of Commonwelath and Comparative Politics, Vol. 34 no. 3 (November 1996), pp. 155-73.
43. “More Reactors for Koodankulam,” The Hindu, 23 January 2007.
44. “Russia to Pursue India’s Case with NSG,” The Hindu, 24 January 2007.


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