HT Image
HT Image

The energy matrix

?There is a tide in the affairs of men,? goes an overused Shakespeare phrase, ?Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life/ Is bound in shallows and in miseries.?
By Manoj Joshi | None
PUBLISHED ON JAN 25, 2006 02:21 AM IST

‘There is a tide in the affairs of men,’ goes an overused Shakespeare phrase, “Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life/ Is bound in shallows and in miseries.” Substitute ‘men’ with ‘nations’ and you have a rough idea about India’s situation. The rising tide is manifest in the parade of world leaders through our capital, the steady flow of foreign investment, and high economic growth. So it is in the increasing weight given to what India has to say about Iran’s

nuclear cheating, the welcome we receive in Asian forums, or in the WTO. Yet, some in India remain determined to keep hundreds of millions bound in ‘shallows and miseries’. They look at every opportunity as a pitfall, and every putative friend as an enemy and are clearly unwilling to take India’s good fortune ‘at the flood’.

No opportunity lasts forever. Our youthful demographic profile will inevitably grey, and unreformed, our educational system will not be able to meet any increased, or high-end, demand in information technology. But perhaps the biggest failure lies in our inability to move in just one area —energy. This, where all our hopes of revolutionising our agriculture and manufacturing will crash along with the aspirations of hundreds of millions of Indians who live in villages trying to eke out a living from marginal lands.

These dark forebodings come to mind when we look at the hand-wringing over the July 18, 2005, India-US nuclear deal. The recent round of talks between Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and US Undersecretary Nicholas Burns, the comments appearing in the media, seem to suggest that India is finding it difficult to come up with a plan to separate its civil and military nuclear facilities that would be credible enough for the US and its Nuclear Supplier Group partners.

This is surprising. The terms of the deal are generous, and India’s needs are evident, and they are time-bound. As the mid-term appraisal of the 10th Five Year Plan brought out, “Given the limited indigenous uranium resources, India must seek at least 20,000 Mwe of additional nuclear power capacity on a turnkey basis… Alternatively, India must seek nuclear fuel on competitive terms for a similar level capacity to be built by NPCIL in the next 12-15 years.” A former Department of Atomic Energy scientist writing on the eve of the Washington visit, too, observed that the DAE was “beginning to face a serious shortage of natural uranium, even to fuel the 18 PWHR currently under operation or construction”. These, note, are Indian assessments, made by Indian specialists.

Neither of the two options — getting reactors turnkey or importing nuclear fuel — are available without the successful conclusion of the deal with the US, and by extension, the Nuclear Suppliers Group. In 2001, the Russians agreed to supply India nuclear fuel for Tarapur, as well as two 1,000 MW power plants at Koodankulam, Tamil Nadu. But by 2004, they made it clear that they would not be able to provide any more fuel or reactors until India made a deal with the NSG. This is broadly the same message India has got from the French, the British, or whoever else we have approached. Fuel, or reactors — India must work out an acceptable arrangement.

The key aspect of India’s requirement is the status to be given to its nuclear programme. Under the deal, India, which is viewed as a nuclear outlaw, is being offered a special status in the world nuclear order. This  is based on the Non-Proliferation Treaty which divides the world into nuclear haves — those who tested weapons before January 1, 1967, and the ‘have nots’ — those who did not conduct tests, or did so later. The treaty’s guardian is the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna that ensures that the non-nuclear States’ activities are within the terms of the treaty. The NSG is a cartel that blocks trade with countries that have not signed the NPT and regulates it with those that have. India has not signed the NPT, though it is a member of the IAEA.

The July 18 deal cannot turn the clock back, but it does the next best thing — make an agreement that will let India keep nuclear weapons, even while permitting it to access technology and materials that have been unavailable till now. In exchange, India must separate its military and civil programme in a phased manner, and place the latter under IAEA safeguards. The deal says nothing about the military part of our programme. The government intends to keep a certain number of facilities in the military list to build and service our arsenal whose intended size remains a secret.

Neither the US nor the NSG needs to offer such a deal to India. They gain nothing in either technology or nuclear resources. There could be some profit in selling reactors to India. But by itself it has not been a consideration. Instead, they will modify their increasingly tough rules to favour India, even while agreeing to accept India’s possession of nuclear weapons. All they want is a credible list of facilities India will put under safeguards so as to make some genuflection to the principle of non-proliferation.

According to reports, the sticking point appears to be India’s reluctance to put its prototype fast breeder reactor into the safeguards regime as well. At first sight this seems odd since there is no indication that India wants to use the fast breeder for any other than civilian use. The logic of  the fast breeder reactor programme is linked to India’s desire to exploit its vast thorium resources. But if the India-US deal makes it easy to import nuclear fuel for safeguarded reactors, the fast breeder should not have the salience it is appearing to have in the minds of many in the DAE.

In any case, the agreement calls for India to separate the civil and military programmes “in a phased manner”. So there is no reason why we cannot give a commitment, even while holding back the actual safeguards agreement till the reactor actually gets going, which will be years from now. In this period, we will know whether the US is keeping its side of the deal. And if it doesn’t, we need not walk that last mile.

To us it seems that many critics of the proposed arrangement are looking at it in a static framework. The three-stage Indian nuclear power programme was conceived in the Fifties. A lot has changed since then. While the logic of India’s quest for a thorium-based reactor remains sound, the circumstances in which it can pursue this programme have changed. They have gone through a cycle of nuclear programmes being country-specific, secretive processes to one where countries trade in materials, technology and R&D. India is being offered a chance to join that stream as well. And if its advanced thorium-uranium reactor is as good as our scientists say it will be, we can contribute in a meaningful way to the Generation IV forum of countries seeking innovative nuclear energy solutions.

There was one way of looking at nuclear power just a couple of years ago when oil was $ 4 a barrel. In the era of $ 60-plus oil and global warming, the mood has changed. Nuclear power is now being seen for what it is: a source of abundant clean energy. Even today, in countries like the US, nuclear power constitutes 20 per cent of its energy mix. India is a long way  from there. And unless it is able to quickly wrap up the nuclear deal, it will not be going anywhere.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
File photo of Pawankumar Badhe, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of India to UN.(ANI)
File photo of Pawankumar Badhe, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of India to UN.(ANI)

'OIC has no locus standi to comment on J&K, misused by Pakistan': India at UNHRC

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Amit Chaturvedi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 04:25 PM IST
The statement comes almost a week after India rejected Pakistan minister Shireen Mazari's criticism of the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
Close
Police said they have sealed the borders of Begusarai district to stop the robbers from escaping.(Getty Images)
Police said they have sealed the borders of Begusarai district to stop the robbers from escaping.(Getty Images)

14 lakh looted in two separate incidents in Bihar’s Begusarai and Saharsa

PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 04:25 PM IST
  • The bank robbery in Begusarai was the fourth in the last three months.
Close
Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik(ANI)
Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik(ANI)

Odisha nominates senior officers to monitor development works in 10 districts

PTI
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 04:01 PM IST
The Planning and Convergence department issued a notification on Monday and nominated the officers to supervise welfare programmes in 10 aspirational districts of the state for three months starting from April 1, he said.
Close
Representational image. (REUTERS)
Representational image. (REUTERS)

IndiGo flight makes emergency landing in Pak, passenger dead on arrival

By HT Correspondent | Edited by Zara Khan
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 03:52 PM IST
An official of the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority said the landing permission was granted to the Captain of the Lucknow-bound IndiGo flight 6E1412 after an elderly passenger fell seriously ill
Close
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad. (File photo)
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad. (File photo)

Jammu: Congress leader holds protest against Ghulam Nabi Azad for praising Modi

UPDATED ON MAR 02, 2021 03:45 PM IST
Shahnawaz Choudhary, a general secretary of Congress in Jammu & Kashmir, accused Azad of acting on Modi’s behest. He said Azad did not come to J&K for the DDC election campaign last year but praised Modi, who snatched the region’s statehood
Close
"India has shown the capacity to be a manufacturer at the global scale and also be an innovator when it came to vaccine development," WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said.(Reuters)
"India has shown the capacity to be a manufacturer at the global scale and also be an innovator when it came to vaccine development," WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said.(Reuters)

WHO chief scientist says India showed capacity to innovate, manufacture vaccines

PTI, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 03:35 PM IST
Speaking at the Global Bio-India 2021, she opined that the fight against the coronavirus pandemic is at a very critical junction now as cases have suddenly gone up, particularly in Europe and America.
Close
Inviting world to invest in Indian maritime sector, PM Modi said, "India's long coastline awaits you. India's hardworking people await you. Invest in our ports. Invest in our people. Let India be your preferred trade destination. Let Indian ports be your port of call for trade and commerce."(PTI)
Inviting world to invest in Indian maritime sector, PM Modi said, "India's long coastline awaits you. India's hardworking people await you. Invest in our ports. Invest in our people. Let India be your preferred trade destination. Let Indian ports be your port of call for trade and commerce."(PTI)

Government aims to operationalise 23 waterways by 2030: PM Modi

ANI, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 03:14 PM IST
The Prime Minister said that the capacity of major ports which was around 870 million tonnes per annum in 2014, has increased to around 1550 million tonnes annually now
Close
The program is executed by the National Integrity & Educational Development Organization which looks into the teaching faculty while the Army oversees administration and logistics.(Hindustan Times/representative image)
The program is executed by the National Integrity & Educational Development Organization which looks into the teaching faculty while the Army oversees administration and logistics.(Hindustan Times/representative image)

Army provides free coaching to J&K students under Super 30 program

ANI
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 02:50 PM IST
The program, the first of its kind in the state, was started on March 15, 2018, with the aim to provide coaching for MBBS and NEET courses to poor students from far-flung areas of the state.
Close
Representational image. (AP)
Representational image. (AP)

Insurgency-related incidents dipped by 80% in N-E states last year: MHA data

By Neeraj Chauhan
UPDATED ON MAR 02, 2021 03:55 PM IST
The highest number (2,644) of insurgents belonging to various outfits surrendered to security forces in 2020. Prior to this, the highest number of surrenders was in 2000 when 1,962 militants gave up arms
Close
A healthcare worker prepares to administer a COVAXIN vaccine, developed by Indian company Bharat Biotech, at a private hospital in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, March 2, 2021. India is expanding its coronavirus vaccination drive beyond health care and front-line workers, offering the shots to older people and those with medical conditions that put them at risk. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)(AP)
A healthcare worker prepares to administer a COVAXIN vaccine, developed by Indian company Bharat Biotech, at a private hospital in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, March 2, 2021. India is expanding its coronavirus vaccination drive beyond health care and front-line workers, offering the shots to older people and those with medical conditions that put them at risk. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)(AP)

Covid-19 vaccination drive: Here's how to book appointments through Aarogya Setu

By hindustantimes.com | Written by Shivani, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 02:48 PM IST
  • The beneficiaries also have an option for walk-in registration at their nearby vaccination centre.
Close
"Federalism and regular consultation with states, which was the cornerstone of Indias economic and political philosophy as enshrined in the Constitution, no longer finds favour with the present Central government," Manmohan Singh said.(HT File Photo)
"Federalism and regular consultation with states, which was the cornerstone of Indias economic and political philosophy as enshrined in the Constitution, no longer finds favour with the present Central government," Manmohan Singh said.(HT File Photo)

Unemployment high due to 'ill considered demonetisation': Manmohan Singh

PTI, Thiruvananthapuram
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 02:29 PM IST
"Unemployment is high and the informal sector is in shambles, a crisis precipitated by the ill considered demonetisation decision taken in 2016", Dr Singh said.
Close
Aam Aadmi Party leader and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal held a roadshow in Surat on Friday, (ANI)
Aam Aadmi Party leader and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal held a roadshow in Surat on Friday, (ANI)

Gujarat civic election: AAP makes inroad 'from urban to rural'

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Poulomi Ghosh
UPDATED ON MAR 02, 2021 02:56 PM IST
"The revolution which started in urban Gujarat continues in the rural polls," the party tweeted.
Close
East-Himalayan Eranthemum. HT Photo/Sobhapati Samom
East-Himalayan Eranthemum. HT Photo/Sobhapati Samom

Rare flowering shrub East-Himalayan Eranthemum photographed 1st time in Manipur

By Sobhapati Samom | Edited by Abhinav Sahay, Imphal
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 02:12 PM IST
  • East-Himalayan Eranthemum is a native plant of east Himalayan region, Bangladesh and Burma. It flowers during January-March, said a website.
Close
The plea has said that according to the 2011 Census ,the total population of transgenders is around 4.87 lakh with literacy rate of 57.06 per cent. (PTI Photo/Mitesh Bhuvad)(PTI)
The plea has said that according to the 2011 Census ,the total population of transgenders is around 4.87 lakh with literacy rate of 57.06 per cent. (PTI Photo/Mitesh Bhuvad)(PTI)

Plea in SC seeks a transgender welfare board to address social welfare issues

PTI, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 02:10 PM IST
The petition filed by a Mumbai-based organisation said that transgenders should be treated with the same dignity and respect as others, claiming they have suffered discrimination for ages and are deprived of social and cultural participation.
Close
A medic administers the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to Nutan Goel, wife of Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan during the second phase of a countrywide inoculation drive, at Delhi Heart and Lung Institute in New Delhi, (PTI)
A medic administers the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to Nutan Goel, wife of Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan during the second phase of a countrywide inoculation drive, at Delhi Heart and Lung Institute in New Delhi, (PTI)

'There were some glitches on Co-Win but..' Harsh Vardhan explains

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Poulomi Ghosh
UPDATED ON MAR 02, 2021 02:07 PM IST
The glitches were mainly because of the huge number of people trying to log in on the website, the minister explained and said that there were already five lakh registrations on Tuesday before 9am. On Monday, 34 lakh registrations were done.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP