Experts and NGOs Criticize US-India Nuclear Deal Nuke Info Tokyo No. 122

Besides those shown in the map on pages 6 amd 7, there are nuclear power plants in two other countries in Asia. These plants are located in India and Pakistan. India has 17 operational power reactors with a gross capacity of 4,120 MWe, while Pakistan has 2 operating power reactors with a gross capacity of 462 MWe. The reason for the low generating capacity for so many reactors in India is that most of them are Indian-designed heavy water reactors with a capacity in the order of only 200 MWe.

India, in particular, has ambitions of greatly increasing its nuclear generating capacity. Five reactors (not counting FBRs) are currently under construction. These will add 2,660 MWe, increasing the gross capacity to 6,780 MWe. India plans to further increase this to 20,000 MWe by the year 2020. However, this plan is highly problematic, because it depends on imported light water reactors and imported nuclear fuel. Modern light water reactors have much larger capacities than India’s heavy water reactors and use uranium more efficiently, but current international arrangements ban exports of nuclear technology and fuel to both India and Pakistan.

Handing the letter to the Foreign Ministry (Photo by Kayo Ikeda)

As mentioned in previous issues of NIT, CNIC is actively involved in an international campaign opposing a deal between India and the US which would grant India a special exemption from US laws and longstanding global nuclear trade standards. As coordinator of the Abolition 2000 US-India Deal Working Group, over a period of a month including Christmas and the New Year, CNIC helped take the campaign to a new level. In a letter sent to more than four-dozen governments in the second week of January, a broad array of more than 130 experts and nongovernmental organizations from 24 countries said the US-India deal “would damage the already fragile nuclear nonproliferation system and set back efforts to achieve universal nuclear disarmament.”

Among the individuals endorsing the appeal were Tadatoshi Akiba (Mayor of Hiroshima), Tomihisa Taue (Mayor of Nagasaki), Jayantha Dhanapala (former UN Under-Secretary General for Disarmament Affairs and President of the 1995 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference), Douglas Roche (former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament) and Noam Chomsky (Massachusetts University of Technology). Six international NGOs and national and local NGOs from South Asia, East Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Europe, Africa, and North America endorsed the letter.

The reason why this sign-on letter was organized at such a difficult time of year was that the 35-member International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors and the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) are expected to take up the issue early in 2008. The international appeal called upon governments represented on these bodies “to play an active role in supporting measures that would ensure this controversial proposal does not: further undermine the nuclear safeguards system and efforts to prevent the proliferation of technologies that may be used to produce nuclear bomb material,” or “in any way contribute to the expansion of India’s nuclear arsenal.”

Current international guidelines severely restrict trade with states, such as India and Pakistan, that do not allow comprehensive international safeguards over all nuclear facilities and material in their territory. The 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) bars direct or indirect assistance of another state’s nuclear weapons program. India and Pakistan, which conducted nuclear weapons tests in 1998, have not joined the NPT, continue to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons, and have not signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). India also detonated a nuclear bomb in 1974 made with plutonium harvested from a Canadian and U.S.-supplied reactor in violation of bilateral peace nuclear use agreements.

“Contrary to the claims of its advocates,” the signatories wrote, “the proposed arrangement fails to bring India into conformity with the nonproliferation behavior expected of other states. India’s commitments under the current terms of the proposed arrangement do not justify making far-reaching exceptions to international nonproliferation rules and norms.”

Noting that the IAEA Board and the NSG traditionally operate by consensus, the signatories stressed that each member state “has a pivotal role to play.” No doubt many of the signatories believe the deal is irredeemably bad, but the drafters chose to limit the appeal to a demand for conditions and restrictions on nuclear trade with India. The appeal sought to provide governments which are genuinely concerned about the deal with demands that they should make during negotiations in the NSG and the IAEA Board of Governors.

Among other recommendations, the appeal urged governments “to actively oppose any arrangement that would give India any special safeguards exemptions or would in any way be inconsistent with the principle of permanent safeguards over all nuclear materials and facilities.” India is reportedly seeking IAEA safeguards that could allow it to cease IAEA scrutiny if nuclear fuel supplies are cut off – even it that is because it renews nuclear testing.

The appeal insisted that NSG states “should under no circumstances” allow for the transfer to India of plutonium reprocessing, uranium enrichment or heavy water production technology, which may be replicated and used to help produce nuclear bomb material. India is seeking access to these sensitive technologies from the United States and other suppliers.

Noting that the nuclear cooperation proposal could help India expand its nuclear weapons arsenal, the appeal also urged governments to insist that India “join the original nuclear weapon states by declaring it has stopped fissile material production for weapons purposes and … make a legally-binding commitment to permanently end nuclear testing.”

The appeal argued that “in the very least,” NSG states should “clarify that all nuclear trade shall immediately cease if India resumes nuclear testing for any reason.” To do otherwise “would undercut the international norm against nuclear testing and make a mockery of NSG guidelines,” according to the supporters of the appeal.

The campaign against the US-India nuclear deal has focused principally on issues of non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament, but there is also a great deal at stake for the nuclear power industry. The nuclear industry has high hopes that India will help it realize its much-vaunted “nuclear renaissance”. Even if India clears the immediate hurdle of securing international approval to import nuclear technology and fuel, it should not be assumed that it will achieve its ambition of 20,000 MWe nuclear generation by 2020, but there will be no sales if the US-India deal falls through.

The Japanese government, as one of the principal cheerleaders for nuclear power, finds itself in a bind. The experience of Hiroshima and Nagasaki makes it difficult for the government to ignore the flagrant double standard that granting a unique exemption for India would represent. However, because of its unwavering belief in nuclear power, it is searching for ways to enable India to expand its nuclear power program. Since no convincing formula can be found, in the end the government will be forced to make a choice. It will suffer a serious loss of credibility if it chooses to sacrifice its long-held disarmament and non-proliferation principles for the dubious benefits of a “nuclear renaissance”.

By Philip White (NIT Editor)

*This article borrows heavily from a press release prepared by the Washington-based Arms Control Association and jointly released with CNIC on January 9. Click here to see the full letter and list of signatories.

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