Ex-atomic energy regulator opposes n-deal with US

Last Updated: Sun, Apr 03, 2011 17:30 hrs

New Delhi, April 3 (IANS) The India-US nuclear deal should be scrapped as there is no justification, technically or economically, for importing over the next two decades American light water reactors to generate 40,000 MW of electricity, former Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB)chairman A. Gopalakrishnan said Sunday.

Gopalakrishnan said the US wanted to revive its moribund nuclear industry by selling its reactors to India and eventually stop this country's indigenous nuclear programme, which successive prime ministers had been nurturing for decades to utilise thorium resources through fast breeder reactors.

The nuclear deal, signed in October 2008, gained momentum after Manmohan Singh became the prime minister in 2004, he said.

Throughout the years of deliberations on the India-US nuclear deal, the AERB was also kept out of the loop and not even consulted on the safety and reliability of reactors to be imported, said Gopalakrishnan in a press release here.

The prime minister's office (PMO) spearheaded an informal alliance of few key politicians, American and Indian corporate sectors and their federations interested in profiteering from the Indian nuclear power business, along with a coterie of top-level officials, who collectively helped the prime minister all along to make a baseless case for import of reactors, Gopalakrishnan said.

'This collective (group) also successfully kept parliament and the people of India deliberately in the dark throughout this decision-making process, under the cover of the Official Secrets Act, which is unnecessarily being applied to this civilian nuclear power sector, mainly to hush up the irrational policy decisions and questionable financial deals between the government and the corporate business houses,' he said.

The central government has never presented a document on India's nuclear power policy for debate, notwithstanding repeated demands from various quarters, including parliament, he said.

The prime minister stated March 29 that India owed its capabilities in all the scientific and technological aspects associated with nuclear reactors to 'the success of the indigenous three-stage programme whose foundation was laid by Dr. Homi Bhabha'.

Singh was referring to India's present capability to design and build up to 700 MW capacity pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs), he said.

Indian PHWRs were the most efficient plutonium producers, far superior to the high burn-up light water reactors (LWRs) which the department of atomic energy (DAE) was planning to import, said Gopalakrishnan.

'We have complete mastery of PHWR technology, with three generations of engineers and scientists who have been trained in all facets of related activities, with existing full capabilities for its manufacture and fabrication within Indian industries.'

Gopalakrishnan pointed out that with proven indigenous expertise of having designed, built and operated 17 PHWRs up to 540 MWe capacity, besides another four 700 MWe PHWR under construction, there was no reason why India had to diversify its nuclear fleet to include several new types of foreign reactors, of which neither Indians nor foreigners have any experience so far.

'Today we have the inherent indigenous ability to further extend the PHWR designs to 1000 MWe rating. As for costs, a 700 MWe PHWR can be built at a cost of Rs.8 crore per MWe, while a 1,650 MWe French European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) at Jaitapur will cost the taxpayer more than Rs.21 crore per MWe.

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