The Great Indian Nuclear Deal

The Wall Street Journal devoted 1200 words* (front page)

The Los Angeles Times reported 925 words*

The New York Times dedicated 900 words*

The Financial Times dedicated 667 words*

The Khaleej Times, Associated Press, South China Morning Post

and the entire world wrote about it

Loads and loads

At home, Doordarshan gave 209 minutes** to the story

NDTV 24X7 also dedicated 209 minutes** to it, purely

Star News devoted 208 minutes** and so did CNN IBN

Aaj Tak and Zee News spent 184 minutes** on all our spokesmen

And my pal, in stone washed Diesel Jeans

Popping an American gum

Looking at his Swiss watch in betweens

Asks me, “What’s the whole fuss about? You want some?”

Ignoring his offer of the pricey gum (ho-hum)

I decide to teach this handsome

Something about the great Indian nuclear problem!

So here we go:

What on earth is ‘nuclear power’?

Nuclear power is generated using Uranium, which is a metal mined in various parts of the world. It produces around 11 percent of the world’s energy needs, and produces huge amounts of energy from small amounts of fuel, without the pollution that we’d get from, say, burning fossil fuels.

Where does India currently stand on nuclear power?

In India, nuclear power is being produced under the Nuclear Power Corporation of India. Seventeen reactors are under operation and five reactors are under construction. These power projects are highly capital intensive and currently, takes care of 2.8 percent of the power needs of the country. Amongst the 30 countries in the world that uses nuclear power, India ranks at 27, which is among the lowest.

Why nuclear power?

To take India’s economic growth rate to greater heights, there is no doubt that power would be required as the main fuel for this growth. Though coal, thermal abd hydro fuel would remain India’s dominant energy mix, it cannot continue to depend on coal alone. Global warming considerations and the immediate availability of clean coal technologies may constrain the coal route at least in the short term. Hydro power may also face constraints that arise from changes in the hydrological cycle triggered by long term climatic change. Hence having nuclear power in India’s energy portfolio is crucial for preserving India’s energy security.

What does 123 agreement mean?

The 123 agreement is the terms of engagement which operationalizes the treaty agreement between India and USA for transfer of civil nuclear technology. India’s right to test nuclear waepons, guarantees of lifetime fuel supply and India’s right to reprocess the spent fuel have all been covered in this agreement.

Then what is the Hyde Act, bro?

The Henry J. Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006 is known as the Hyde Act. It is the legal framework for this deal and provides the legal basis for the 123 Agreement with India.

So, what would the deal with the U.S. mean for India?

The government has chalked out a roadmap wherein over the next 2 years, through the deal, it has set a target of generating 20,000 MWe (unit of nuclear power) as against the current 3,900 MWe.

You mean…

Chup, beech mein mat bol. The biggest advantage, which the UPA government is actually seeking is projecting to the world that it is an ally of USA, which is a superpower in the world today. The deal would provide India with access to American civilian nuclear technology. It would finally open up the door to US military technology, especially the fascinating US missile defense system. Once the new reactors are set up, the nuclear power generation would take care of 8 percent of India’s total power requirement. More than 80 percent of the power generated in India comes from coal and thermal. And that will continue but just as oil has become critical today, coal will also one day reach such a stage. And unless we have a reliable backup ready, our entire country could get unplugged. Having nuclear power could help India, over the long run, offset the rising cost of coal.

Yes, price of uranium is also mounting. Between 2005 (when the Indo-Us nuclear deal was first proposed) and 2007 (when the 123 agreement was finalised), since then, the spot price of uranium has quadrupled. According to a June 2008 market assessment, a further 8 percent increase is expected. But remember, unlike oil, we are dealing with more mature economies here who will supply uranium and hopefully, they will prevent the present cartelization which we see in oil.

What is the cost of nuclear power?

At present, power from existing nuclear reactors costs, after huge subsidies, between Rs.2.70 and Rs.2.80 per kWh. The coal fired Sasan mega power project in Madhya Pradesh will be supplying power at Rs.1.196 per unit. The real cost of power from existing nuclear reactors is around Rs 4 per unit; the cost of power produced by new reactors will be around Rs.5.50 per unit. But the economies of scale would soon start giving the advantages. Plus, these costs are today at the present levels of coal price, so when price of coal escalates further, cost would only go up.

What would the deal mean to Indian companies?

India has plans to set up 15 plants over the next 20 years. Business worth $100 billion is expected to be generated from this nuclear deal over the next 20 years. Apart from USA and France, which would benefit immensely, Indian companies too will get a part of this juicy pie. Over 400 Indian companies are expected to benefit, mainly for those involved in making equipments for nuclear power plants.

Why did the Left withdraw support?

The Left alleged that the deal would undermine the sovereignty of India’s foreign policy. It has also stated that the Indian government was hiding certain clauses of the deal, which would harm India’s indigenous nuclear program.

How lengthy is the deal?

84 pages.

Have all the MPs actually taken the effort to read the deal?

You think so?

And what else happened in the Parliament?

Lalu sang a song, Rahul gave an inspiring speech, Omar Abdullah gave a fiery speech, the Speaker’s patience was tested to the core and the UPA won the trust vote.

Wow, that was something!!

Ya, it was!! Now could you pass the gum, please?

* From Iivemint.com

** Centre for Media Studies

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~ by rb on July 30, 2008.

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