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Global nuclear giants go bust, should India celebrate?

Discussion in 'Indian Military Doctrine' started by layman, Apr 9, 2017.

  1. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    [​IMG]

    The global nuclear industry is going through a virtual meltdown on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

    This is happening even as India is investing heavily in nuclear energy. This collapse of atomic giants offers New Delhi a new opportunity and many in the Indian atomic establishment are silently celebrating this premature death of suitors who were wooing to put tens of atomic plants in India estimated to cost at least USD 150 billion.

    “This atomic meltdown is a blessing in disguise” was how a top government official described the unfolding scenario.

    In addition, in these changed circumstances, if the Indian private industry plays its cards right, it could also provide an opportunity to the country to become a hub for low cost suppliers of nuclear technology. A little far-fetched but who knows how energy games get played in the future.

    In a way the diplomatic noose that had been tightened around Indias neck to buy super expensive French and American nuclear reactors has on its own been loosened if not shed at all.

    As part of the protracted global negotiations on admitting India back into the nuclear commerce club, a kind of barter deal had happened and India had committed itself to buy French and American reactors, but now that the commercial operations of at least two of the foreign giants is floundering, India need not back down from its commercial commitments.

    India can retain the moral high ground of wanting to buy the French and American reactors but since the companies themselves are in trouble no deals can be inked. India can once again hope to forge its own nuclear path free of shackles of forced imports of untested technologies.

    The American atomic giant Westinghouse Electric Company, LLC filed for bankruptcy a week ago, last year the French nuclear giant Areva went through a similar process.

    Both these companies had shown aggressive interest in setting up atomic power plants soon after the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal was inked. Both wanted a large chunk of the nuclear commerce worth billions of dollars that India was holding out as a promise once New Delhi was extricated from the atomic dog-house as a consequence of the landmark Indo-US civilian nuclear deal.

    All along as negotiations were going on around the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, there was a small but influential group in the Indian nuclear establishment that was most uncomfortable at importing so many different types of reactors.

    This group felt that since India had mastered the making of Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) the effort should ideally be to multiple this technology while alongside Indias futuristic reactors the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor which uses plutonium as its main fuel and the Advanced Heavy Water Reactor that uses thorium as its main fuel could be promoted.

    Jairam Ramesh, the engineer-turned-influential politician in the United Progressive Alliance government, was an early opponent of importing so many different types of reactors.

    Towards mastering the PHWR, India on its own first enhanced the capacity of these reactors from 220 MW to 540 MW by constructing two of them at Tarapur in Maharashtra and then the same reactor has been modified to enhance the capacity to 700 MW with four units already under construction at Kakrapar and Rawatbhatta.

    Among imported reactors India successfully started commercial operation of two 1000 MW units at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu these are made with Russian help. In the Indian nuclear establishment some felt the Russian reactors and the Indian three stage program was more than enough to ensure long term energy security for the country.

    Mastering several different technologies is a complex task and there was a lot of consternation among several senior scientists that if the entire Indo-US civilian nuclear deal were to be implemented then at least three new reactor types would have to mastered.

    These included Areva proposing to put six atomic plants each of 1650 MW capacity at Jaitapur in Maharashtra. Westinghouse was wanting to sell at least 6 reactors of 1200 MW each to be put up at Kovadda in Andhra Pradesh — these were initially proposed to be put up at Mithivirdi in Gujarat but land acquisition issues forced Westinghouse to opt for a different site.

    General Electric was proposing to put a mega nuclear park as well. Each of these three different reactors are very different from each other and an entirely new set of people would have to be trained to safely operate these.

    Typically each new reactor operates for 60 years and then it takes another couple of decades to safely decommission them hence the investment of human resources is a commitment of at least a century.

    With Westinghouse filing for bankruptcy it is highly unlikely that India would order any reactors from them anytime soon. The idea was to order in one go 6 nuclear plants that would be delivered on a turnkey basis. Now that Westinghouse itself says it can only supply the technology for the nuclear island and does not want to undertake any construction activity.

    Despite the fact India has already committed to pay Rs 100 crore to Westinghouse while ordering the AP 1000 reactors. These orders may obviously go into cold storage till Westinghouse and Toshiba its parent company in Japan iron out their differences.

    Westinghouse denies that the India project is derailed but experts say expect delays galore.

    Similarly, Areva the French giant that owned all the nuclear technology for the EPR 1650 MW reactor having been almost dissolved and the affairs taken over by Electricite de France or EDF the French electricity utility, these reactors for which quite a bit of ground work was already done at Jaitapur has also been cold shouldered since no buyer government would want to get involved when a messy fight is ongoing in the French public sector companies on ownership of the atomic plants.

    On its own General Electric has been dragging its feet on bidding for reactors in India since its lawyers felt Indias nuclear liability law was more people friendly as opposed to the usual global nuclear liability law that is industry friendly.

    In this scenario India is left with no other option but to multiply its indigenous fleet of 700 MW PHWRs and simultaneously expand its collaboration with Russia to buy at least 20 more Russian plants similar in nature but probably more advanced than the reactors operating at Kudankulam.

    After India was admitted into the nuclear fold to allow global nuclear commerce all restrictions at importing uranium have already gone and if India seeks to multiply manifold its own home grown reactors that should not be difficult.

    In addition since the co-operation with Russia is blossoming more light water reactors could well be ordered from Russia.

    This sudden change in the wind direction with American and French nuclear companies all doddering has in way brought India back to where it was in 2004 before US President George Bush decided to shake hands and be friends with India in the nuclear power sector.

    At that point India had its PHWRs and the Russian tech but what the country lacked was an assured supply of uranium fuel. India does not have sufficient native resources of uranium and if the nuclear program has to expand then importing uranium was the only option.

    Today the supply of imported uranium fuel is well guaranteed under global law thanks to the atomic embrace but this melt down of nuclear giants has tilted the balance in Indias favour.

    Now without ever having to officially deny buying expensive French and American reactors, New Delhi can opt to expand its existing fleet of atomic plants on its own terms. This meltdown is making the Indian nuclear establishment smile all the way.

    Source
     
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  2. Pundrick

    Pundrick Lieutenant FULL MEMBER

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    Before we would even plan something, the Chinese would buy them very easily. Only Tata & Reliance has some big pockets and only they can afford to buy this companies. But it will be interesting to see whether USA allows such strategic sell to country like India.
     
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  3. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    Stirring up the nuclear pot
    Published April 10, 2017
    SOURCE: THE HINDU

    [​IMG]

    A picture of the globe under the hood of a cobra was a familiar symbol of the precarious state of international security till recently. Accidental or deliberate pressing of the nuclear button was the nightmare that haunted humanity. At the same time, using the nuclear genie and harnessing it for prosperity was the best dream. Today, both the nightmare and the dream have become jaded.

    Nuclear weapons have ceased to be viable as instruments of war because of the unpredictability of the consequences of a nuclear war. No one can trust even the use of tactical nuclear weapons without collateral damage for the user. Today, nations can be destroyed with mobile phones and laptops without killing a single human being, making the “humaneness” of cyberwarfare the biggest danger.

    The theories of deterrence of nuclear stockpiles have also been discredited after 9/11 brought the most formidable nuclear power to its knees. Non-proliferation today, if any, is not on account of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but on account of the futility of building nuclear arsenals. The threat of terrorism looms larger than the threat of nuclear weapons. After Fukushima, nuclear power too is receding as a sensible component of the energy mix. One clean-up operation after an accident can demolish many years of technological advancement and hopes of having cheap power. The sun shines as a source of energy, not the glittering nuclear reactors which seem to emit mushroom clouds.

    Still a flourishing industry

    Old habits die hard, however, and there is constant activity on the weapons and the power fronts. The nuclear and disarmament industry still flourish. Former U.S. President Barack Obama’s Prague speech had ignited cautious optimism that nuclear weapons would cease to be the anchor of security, though not during his presidency, not even in his lifetime. Rajiv Gandhi’s United Nations Plan of Action for total elimination of nuclear weapons came out of the dusty archives. The ‘Global Zero’ movement gained momentum, even as nuclear weapon powers continued investment in developing delivery systems and weapons.

    U.S. President Donald Trump had once said that proliferation was good for American allies, but more recently, he said: “It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack.” He even hinted at the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances. The hope raised by four old cold warriors, George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger and Sam Nunn, by setting the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and working on the actions required to achieve that goal finally receded, and in desperation, the world turned to the good old UN machinery to create illusions of progress.

    Emphasising non-proliferation

    NPT enthusiasts have been disappointed of late that out of the three pillars of the treaty — non-proliferation, disarmament and nuclear energy for peaceful purposes — the first, non-proliferation, has got watered down and disarmament has become the priority. They also worry that dangerous technologies like enrichment are within the reach of the non-weapon states. In the context of Japan and South Korea debating acquisition of nuclear weapons, they feel that non-proliferation should be brought back to be the first priority of the NPT. The promotional function of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is also a concern for them. The IAEA has already shifted its focus from nuclear power to nuclear security, as a result. In 1995, the NPT was made a perpetual treaty with no possibility of amendment, but its votaries now advocate that non-proliferation should be emphasised to the exclusion of disarmament and nuclear energy promotion.

    The UN General Assembly, with its unlimited agenda, readily jumped into the first UN conference in more than 20 years on a global nuclear weapons ban, though the nuclear weapon powers did not join. More than 120 nations in October 2016 voted on a UN General Assembly resolution to convene the conference to negotiate a legally binding treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading to their total elimination. Britain, France, Russia and the U.S. voted no, while China, India and Pakistan abstained. Though India had recommended the convening of such a conference, it abstained on the resolution as it was not convinced that the conference could accomplish much at this time. India said that it supported the commencement of negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament on a comprehensive Nuclear Weapons Convention, which in addition to prohibition and elimination also includes verification. The U.S. and others wanted to accept the reality that such conferences would serve no purpose. The conference has failed even before it commenced.

    In the midst of this ferment, a debate has begun in India about a review of its no-first use doctrine. Experts seem to think that India’s doctrine is flexible enough to deal with any eventuality, but others feel that we should enter more caveats to safeguard our interests. Perhaps, it is best to let the sleeping dogs lie.

    On nuclear power production

    On the nuclear power front, the efforts to increase nuclear power production suffered a setback as a result of Fukushima. Many countries that had lined up before the IAEA for nuclear technology for peaceful purposes quietly switched to other sources of energy. The much-expected nuclear renaissance withered away. Except for China, India and Russia, most nations have shied away from building nuclear reactors or importing them. India’s liability law deterred U.S. companies from exporting reactors to India. The financial problems of Westinghouse, which had agreed to build six reactors in Andhra Pradesh, postponed, if not cancelled, the venture. But India has not fundamentally changed its three-stage nuclear power development, though the thorium stage eludes it.

    The need for reduction of greenhouse gases was an incentive to increase nuclear power production, but President Trump’s challenge of the whole concept of climate change as a hoax and the consequent reduction of allocation of funds to protect the environment will further reduce the accent on nuclear power. The Kudankulam project is set to move along with Russian collaboration, but its progress has been slow. The nuclear liability law, the Westinghouse bankruptcy and the protests by local people have combined to delay the expansion of nuclear power in India.

    Like everything else in international affairs, the nuclear pot is also being stirred on account of the uncertainties of the U.S. government and changing threat perceptions. Nobody thinks any more that peace and amity will break out between the U.S. and Russia, making nuclear weapons redundant. But no one is certain that the nuclear genie will not take new incarnations as a result of the ferment.

    T.P. Sreenivasan, a former Ambassador, was the Governor for India of the IAEA and Executive Director of the IAEA 2020 Programme

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  4. SrNair

    SrNair Captain FULL MEMBER

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    Oh well .We should give an indirect thanks to Chinese :D
    After all they were the one that messed up this NSG bid.

    We wont get this NSG seat even in near future (perhaps we dont need an aggressive appraoch here).

    Chinese will begin their preying with trillion$ reserve .Dont know whether we can buy this giant.
     

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