Monday, September 3, 2007

Introducing: You Don't Know Who

On the Indo-US nuclear policy for laymen

: That someone/blogger/person who would usually be in a position of authority - either directly or with direct authority to speak on authority -- and will give us bits of their wisdom or their two bits; which of course you are free to decide, for self. They might choose to remain undisclosed and not reveal their shitizenship because of parental, occupational, situational or spousal pressure. In absolute empathy and a hope they would come out of the closet soon, here's some insight from our first You Don't Know Who (YDKW).

YDKW1 is someone who hobnobs with People with Power and knows things we Might Not Know. So perhaps he will share them here. Also, this other-worldly tone will be dropped in usual posts. I am feeling enigmatic and all. Also, that the bit about Atoms for Peace and 20 Gwe completely got me. Poetry and politics, of the nuclear kind. I just understood that much and it makes me queasy; you go figure.
J Bo, Over and Out

Explaining the Nuclear Deal: Issues to Think About

The brouhaha over the nuclear deal has created a great more noise than light. Most people don't really know what is happening, and it does not help that our esteemed MPs are choosing to exaggerate and shout rather than debate the merits or demerits of the deal. In a few short paragraphs, here are the bare bones of the deal:

What is India's nuclear position?
India's nuclear energy program began in the 1950s with a great deal of involvement of the United States through the Atoms for Peace program, including helping build and providing nuclear fuel for the nuclear reactor in Tarapur, as well as through scientific cooperation. Differences arose in 1968 with India's opposition to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The NPT recognises five states (US, USSR/Russia, UK, France and China) as Nuclear Weapons States on the basis that they tested nuclear weapons before 1967. India considers this discriminatory. [i] Signatories to the NPT are allowed access to each other's civilian nuclear facilities. After 1974, when India tested its first nuclear device, the US formed the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), to oversee sales of nuclear material. In 1978 the US Congress passed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act but the US continued to provide some nuclear fuel to India under a 1963 treaty with India until 1980, when it passed on those responsibilities to France.
In 1992 the NSG limited sales of nuclear technology and materials to non-Nuclear Weapons States only if their nuclear reactors were under full scale safeguards implemented by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). France continued to provide nuclear fuel to India until it too adhered to this provision in 1996. China and Russia have supplied India with nuclear fuel after this period. Nuclear energy in 2006 accounted for 3 GigaWatts of electricity, or 2.6 per cent of India's electricity generation. [ii]

India plans on expanding the amount of electricity generated by nuclear energy to 20 GWe by 2020 (this is from nuclear plants already under construction). Except that we have a lack of Uranium. Most of our Uranium is low quality, except some newly discovered deposits that have as yet to be mined. Our plants are running at under 40% capacity when they could be running at above 90%. In another words we are paying more than twice the costs of electricity generated by nuclear energy because we are stopped from buying nuclear fuel because of NPT and NSG guidelines.

What does the nuclear deal do?
The nuclear deal will allow us to buy some (though not all) nuclear fuel and technology from the US, and it commits the US (which is the most important member of the NSG) to convince other members of the NSG to change their guidelines so that India can also buy fuel from them.

What do we pay for this deal?
Money. The deal allows them to sell us nuclear fuel and technology and it allows us to buy it from them. That is the bare bones. The complications are that we will have to put 14 out of our 22 nuclear plants under supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and promise to use those reactors only for civilian purposes. This will apply to most of the new reactors that will be built.

Does this mean we cannot build, or test, nuclear weapons?
We can build as many nuclear weapons as we want, as long as the fuel is from the military nuclear facilities. If we test nuclear weapons we have a problem, with the US at the least. The US is bound by its Atomic Energy Act of 1954 and the Hyde Act, 2006, that will mean it cannot sell us fuel if we test nuclear weapons. The Agreed Text of the nuclear deal does not talk about nuclear testing, but simply says that national laws will apply. This is what happened in the earlier Tarapur case. The US had to stop supplying fuel under its own laws, and passed the responsibilities on to others. In reality we don't know when, or if, we will have to test nuclear weapons, and if and when it happens, we can try and negotiate a position then. As things stand now, if we test, the US will have to stop supplying us with nuclear fuel & equipment. The only way to beat that is to convince the US to change its laws.

Why do people dislike the deal?
Critics of the deal feel that we are losing the independence of our policy options by signing up to this deal. We will have to put a large part of our nuclear infrastructure under international supervision, and if things go wrong we will have bought large expensive nuclear energy plants and not be able to buy fuel for them. They insist that we should concentrate on clean coal and other alternative sources of energy. The reality is that we don't have clean coal technology and the coal we use for electricity production is immensely polluting. Solar, and hydrothermal power is unreliable, expensive and just not enough.

The other main reason that people dislike the deal is that they feel it is an excuse by which the US will try and control India. In reality the deal is just a civilian nuclear deal, not a military compact. India is bound by its own laws, nobody else's, this does not change that. the deal also allows us to buy nuclear fuel and technology from anybody and also to buy enough fuel for the lifetime of the nuclear reactors. If the US, for any reason, terminates the deal, it has to pay compensation.

Bottom line
We are a growing power, with a hungry economy. We need energy, and we also need to make new relationships. This is part of that process. It could be a better deal, but you don't negotiate with a superpower and get everything we want. In the real world life is about compromises, to quote a former US Ambassador who I know well, "What people need to remember is that both sides were negotiating as much by what they left out as by what they put in. Their objectives were largely, but not entirely, compatible. India can demonstrate that it is not bound by unilateral US requirements. The US can demonstrate, albeit with a little more difficulty, that it can fully abide by US law under the 123 agreement. Neither side can get the comfort involved in having its maximum desires spelled out."

[i]. Indian government position on NPT and other treaties dealing with non-proliferation: .
[ii]. "Nuclear Power in India" Briefing Paper 45, Uranium Information Centre,

PS: Ok, one question. When we say, we will have to pay 'money --> does the government have like contingency funds -- money for a rainy day, like when we (govt) sign a nuclear deal or something -- or does that us paying money mean more taxes soon? Paisa kahan se aata hai?
I don't understand, I will ask. Shrug. Shamelessly. So, all those who wish to write, or click photos (no one? anyone?), make videos, make podcasts, cartoon strips with Desi, better, neater versions of Desi... feel free! You got the email, here it goes: the rate I am saying that line, I think I need a jingle.


Mohit said...

I guess the US Ambassador quote sums it up - both sides have objections. While distractors of the deal in India fear that we are selling out to the US, their counterparts in US have their own objections ( about India getting an unfair advantage even though it refuses to join international non-proliferation agreements. They also fear that countries like Iran may ask for such concessions, but the US clearly states that this is a unique deal because India, in effect, outside the system, has played by the rules and the system would be strengthened by bringing it in.

Great to see such an informed post, J Bo, from Mr. YDKW1 - definitely enhanced my understanding of the issue.

Anonymous said...

Answering the question about money. Sorry, should have clarified. We have the money. Buying nuclear plants is just like buying other things (fruits and veggies in the supermarket).

Our problem is that the people who have the fuel and equipment, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, cannot supply it to us under current guidelines. The current deal allows us to break that embargo with the most important NSG member.

The text of the agreement is available at the MEA at:

Crimson Feet said...

extremely useful...

and thanks mr YDKW1

.... i wonder why left is so adamant?!?... can't someone sit across the table and explain it all slowwllyyy to them.. and if they dont agree then just shoot them... with a camera and put their pic on dumbest-harmful-politicians-of-the-world homepage!!

J. Bo said...

Hello You Dont Know Who!
How nice that you are reading too! And welcome, Citizen. :D

Mohit said...

Mr. You Dont Know Who,

Would it be fair to say that this deal is just an exercise, at least in part, to open up the Indian market (with a huge potential) for US suppliers of nuclear fuel and maybe that is what irks the Left parties most - Capitalism in the name of strategic partnership for a more responsible and peaceful world!

Anonymous said...

Before we get completely into the Left-bashing circuit, the key issues that the Left itself has highlighted is that this will bring us closer to the US, and that nuclear energy may not be the safest form of energy generation.

Key countries, such as Pakistan next door, have paid a heavy price in courting US attention. For the record I don't think it is viable to compare India with Pakistan.
Secondly, if the safety of nuclear power was an issue the Left should have said so earlier before we started building a number of power plants. Although I don't wish to be blase about nuclear waste, but pollution from coal and other fuel burning vehicles manage to kill a huge number every year, and pure clean energy in reliable quantities exists only in science fiction novels.

The key questions about this deal (or any other) are, (1) are we better or worse off after the deal, and (2) what is an alternative?

Although the opponents of the deal have said we are worse off, they have not really told us how. More importantly they have not answered the second part of the question. We currently manufacture 130 GWe by all our combined production, by 2050 our installed nuclear capacity should be over 220 GW, about 10% of our total (most of the rest will still be coal). If the opponents of the deal can show us how we can generate the electricity that we desperately need from other sources, then they could be taken more seriously.

Mohit, it does not have to have to be the US that supplies us the fuel and equipment. Australia, Russia, France are all members of the NSG. We just have to break the embargo. Do also realise that we could be selling this tech, too, most of which we have developed ourselves, to other countries. Hopefully at a decent profit.

Crimson Feet said...

I do agree that one needs to be accomodative, and move forward by taking everyone ALONG. Especially when the intent is right although the stand may be flawed. (I doubt it in their case)

Having said that, don't u feel that the mere suggestion of giving a chance to LEFT to provide an alternative solution is only an excercise in "accomodative democracy" that hinders fast decision making? The motivations of Left seem hurried, if not misplaced.

The left's cry on the lines of "USA will enslave us" is not even worth responding to! its childish.

The "safety aspects" are completely a controllable variable, and must be considered provided the economic aspects favor the decision. Also, the views on safety are multiple. Information is available freely---
"Per amount of electricity produced, hydropower causes 110 fold, coal, 45 fold, and natural gas, 10 fold more deaths than nuclear power. As Petr Beckmann, founding editor of Access to Energy, shows in his book The Health Hazards of Not Going Nuclear, nuclear power is the safest source of energy in all aspects, not excluding terrorism and sabotage, major accidents, and waste disposal."
( )

There may be a viewpoint there that deserves accomodation.?!

And, finally, the case for nuclear nergy being economical in the long run.
"Nuclear energy averages 0.4 euro cents/kWh, much the same as hydro, coal is over 4.0 cents (4.1-7.3), gas ranges 1.3-2.3 cents and only wind shows up better than nuclear, at 0.1-0.2 cents/kWh average." --

[The methodology considers emissions, dispersion and ultimate impact. With nuclear energy the risk of accidents is factored in along with high estimates of radiological impacts from mine tailings (waste management and decommissioning being already within the cost to the consumer)]

( )

I strongly feel that the supporters of left must be informed about the flawed nature of their stand. People should read and know, so that they do not support a wrong person again.

Better have an intelligent enemy than a foolish friend.

Anonymous said...

Very very informative..The whole Nuclear thing is Now-clear to me.It's still Unclear to the opposition , I think.
Who'll tell the Left that they are not Right or maybe let them know that Ur-anus is not the plural of uranium nor is it some rectal dysfunction? Guess, it's more about proving a point than discussing technology/growth.Ignorance at the top level of our democracy isn't a blissful sight/thought, but we chose them.If only, half the TV channels or newspapers(tabloids, nowadays) were half as informative as this blog, there would have been more awareness and knowledge, in and around me. I am off now,have to watch the news.They are showing bollywood look-alikes on breaking news.(one of them even has a Russian gun,,,think, he is going to win the audience poll)

Sunny said...

All things said, let me draw your attention to a few other goings on in the news recently which to me atleast are tied in to the Indo-US deal.

April 2007, Jakarta: Manmohan Singh makes a speech about Asia and Africa ending their dependence on Western governments and companies for the buying and selling of oil and gas. He said it was high time the two continents — which include some of the world's largest producers and consumers of energy — evolved a "framework" of their own.

Essentially, in this speech Dr. Singh's use of the word "framework" is a reference not just to the mediatory role of Western companies as producers, buyers and sellers but also to efforts by Western governments, particularly Washington, to direct the Central Asian and African energy sector, including pipeline routes, away from its most important future consumer — South, South-East and East Asia.

India has had close relationships with Iran, due to its rich Natural Gas Reserves, (only someone naive would underwrite the Iran Pipeline).

Additionally, here is something interesting to look at. The nuclear industry in the US has been going through a stagnant phase in recent years- no new commercial nuclear reactor has come on line there in the last decade. Having one of the largest nuclear industries in the world, such stagnancy does not bode well in the business-oriented minds of US policy makers, and certainly not for the nuclear industry here. With the Henry Hyde Act permitting trade and commerce in nuclear technology and fuel with India, the US nuclear industry stands to gain substantially from the nascent but emerging Indian nuclear market, which was so far constrained by technological and fuel gaps. Moreover, the Indian Planning Commission in its Integrated Energy Policy has set a target to lift electricity generation capacity through nuclear means from a mere 3,000 MW at present to 63,000 MW in the next 25 years, which alone will require new plant investment of more than $100 billion. (where will money come from - US, Japan and Russia of course)

Now consider this, following the Indo-US agreement, India builds 5 new, large reactors with American, Russian, and Japanese help. In 2012 the US asks India, once again, to vote against Iran at the IAEA, threatening to stop uranium supplies under the guise of annual reporting requirements. Considering that the Iran-India gas pipeline is now operational, India must now choose between the fire and the frying pan.

So this is where it stands. Either we lose the Nuke Deal, and keep our nation energy hungry. Or, conversely, we can get stuck with losing Iranian gas down the line, and alienate the "outside framework" we have worked so hard to create.

What would I do?
I say go for the deal, once more FDI is in play in India, the US is dependent on India's economic well being. In effect, then we can sit and play "chicken".


sector7 said...

I wish someone can gather all this one stop information from here and publish it across from Punjab Kesari to HT for general access. This news is making headlines almost everyday, its gonna be THE most groundbreaking deal for India in this century but surprisingly no one seems to know whats going on or whats it all about!
I'm equally surprised that the Congress, a party well known for their media-propagandas, is keeping from coming forth with the deal details. hmm... I wonder if theres a hidden agenda. Call me skeptical but I'm living in India.

But seriously, for once I do find myself favoring the Left. For it is because of them raking up the issue - is there a growing public interest, is there a whole Post here dedicated to the concern.

While the economic & energy merits of having this deal are obvious, what has gotten me into thinking are the "other" possible outcomes/benefits/compromises that will follow. We cannot simply believe that US wants the deal done because it just wants to sell nuclear fuel to India because it has suddenly shown great responsibility towards NPT?? What does US stand to gain (or exploit) from this deal? Nobody is talking about that. It would be interesting if someone can throw light here.
Also, if you recall, the Left went into a kill frenzy mode AFTER there were definite reports which said the deal will be annulled if India conducts any nuclear tests. Consider this - "Year 2015 - India depending on N no. of nuclear plants for 70% of its power generation - Under the leadership of another ill-formed coalition we go ahead with a N Test - Now the NSG backs off in clear agreement to the violations of the deal - BOOM." Can you imagine the implications? The entire country will be down on its knees within months. This is no science fiction. This is a nuclear time bomb waiting to explode on our face do we blindly follow everything that is 123. Here I ask, now what are the alternatives to this? The only one which comes to my mind is early corrections to the policy. Thankfully after much hullabaloo, a committee has been formed to look into just this.

Another important OFF-topic which has been overlooked in all this "hullabaloo" is - International Relations & their Patterns.
Having a super-powerful ally is no less an obligation than a hotshot kid in school having "back" of his seniors or local goons. This ofcourse comes for a price - those little obligations to keep those goons happy. PS: Theres a lot of elaboration of this in Chanakya's Neetishastra
Considering the internationalization (or bastardization) of USA with its foreign allies & its track record with them, we can easily anticipate what these obligations will be. Militaristic. They have already talked about bases in J&K (as a third front for Afghanistan) & in India Ocean (to contain Chinese influence)
I cannot recall exactly when, but I've recently read this in HT that their fresh requests have found approval in some quarters this time around!! hmm... is it just a mere coincidence?
As YDKW1 correctly said, its not viable to compare the case of Pakistan with India. True, simply because we arent obliged to US now. But it wont take much to change now to then. Wont we like to keep our big brother happy then? We will not mind "a few bases" then. We will not mind a "full fledged" entry of Wall Mart & the likes then. We will not mind a fully hyper westernized culture & society then. or Will We??

Think about it.

Crimson Feet said...

@sunny and @sector7

very laterla points there... i confess I had not considered the "framework" possibility mentioned by sunny.. and the questions raised by sector 7 abt "we sitting on a nuclear bomb, if we follow 123 blindly" are worth pondering.

i feel there is one core problem that both of you are addressing and thats the possibility of US using the 123 agreement as a "ankush" to control the "elephant india"... but i belive that this will not happen... simply because US cant afford it. Rather NO one can afford or... world economies are SO intricately interlinked these days that the impact on one (especially a BIG one like india) will show on most other major ones...even if directly USA is not impacted much.. the combined effect of india's "light out" will show on many countries, which in turn will be a deterrant for US to take any such step (either wrt Iran pipeline or after a nuclear test)... international diplomatic thinking has never have been so complicated simply because although political boundaries are clear.. the ecomomic ones are blurring..!!!

so MY VOTE... sign 123 .. and as i said before... "just shoot the LEFT... with a camera and put their pic on dumbest-harmful-politicians-of-the-world homepage!! "

Is there a 456 for wind energy.. ?!!? lets sign it..i just love the thought of HUGE windmill farms! and its also the only MORE economical electricty source.. than Nuclear

and if there's a 456 for wind energy sign that too !!

Crimson Feet said...

oops... that last 456 was there by mistakes!!... :)

sector7 said...

@crimson feet

Its not about what US decides to do with India, its about the Terms & Conditions laid down in the policy. ie. If there IS a nuclear test, India WILL be out. (this even if US or whoever does NOT want to because of their close economic/social/military ties)

I am very much for the 123.... even 456 for that matter. Provided everyone know what they are/arent in for. Not simply 12 ka 4 and 42 ka 1 in the end. :P

Care Bear said...

Thanks for the insight YDKW :)

mm13 said...

USA cannot be trusted for anything. Look at all the countries that the US supported in the past-Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakinstan. With this deal and the US's new found interest in India, we will surely join the list in no time.
And if we really have so much money, why can't we use it to ensure that each of the "one billion plus..and counting" people, atleast get one square meal a day.

Arun Meethale Chirakkal said...

Thanks for the pretty informative piece and the comments. It's really helpful. But no one seemed to mention our allowing IAEA to inspect our reactors...