“Atomic Anne” in a tither

Did anyone watch the 14th India Today Conclave proceedings possibly broadcast on Headlines Today TV channel March 7? In the session featuring Anne Lauvergeon, chairperson of the French nuclear company Areva, who spoke on whether “India needs nuclear power”, she made the pitch again. In the interaction period I countered that India needs nuclear power, but not unaffordable imported nuclear power, and that having invested in the plutonium fuel cycle to capitalize on the country’s ample thorium reserves through the natural uranium fueled reactors in the first stage (breeder reactors in the 2nd stage and thorium reactors in the final stage articulated in the Bhabha Plan in the 1950s), there’s no justification whatsoever for India to go the enriched uranium route and into energy dependency. These are arguments I made in opposition to the lead-up to the nuclear deal, which centrally hurt the integrity of the Indian nuclear energy program and the surge capacity in the production of fissile material and, hence, of nuclear weapons. Other equally telling arguments were made by the late PK Iyengar, AN Prasad, A. Gopalakrishnan. All together, these were convincing enough to nearly sink the deal in 2008, but for the shenanigans in Parliament pulled by the Congress Party’s Manmohan Singh regime. (All these articles by all of us were collected in the compendium — ‘Strategic Sellout’ and published in 2009 by Pentagon Press. New Delhi.)

Response: Madame Lauvergeon Anne dissimulated — saying this and saying that and not much of anything at all, ending with the clincher — but “India signed the nuclear deal to go forward, so let’s go forward!” Forward into energy captivity!!

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, Europe, Indian Politics, nuclear industry, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, nuclear power, Nuclear Weapons, society, South Asia, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Technology transfer, Weapons and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to “Atomic Anne” in a tither

  1. Guru says:


    Agreed that it is a done deal. But, now, with a change of government now a matter of time and not mere speculation, what bis the way forward?

    • It depends on how strongly motivated the incoming govt is to set right a situation compromised by the Congress regime of Manmohan Singh. But nothing that cannot be done.

  2. Parag Anand Guruji says:

    Sir, What are the critical decisions that Indian government needs to take in order to surge forward towards usage of Thorium as fuel? In that, what key actions will neutralize the pressures from the mighty international stake-holders in petroleum and nuclear “import-business” who will try to hamper this surge in protection of their economic interests?

    • It’s time GOI believed and invested in home-grown reactor technology — INDU reactors, breeders, and thorium reactors that require the breeder stage to get underway fast to produce the feedstock for it. The monies being slated for imported reactors is a humungous amount, which is better, more productively used in accelerating the breeder and thorium stage. Incidentally, the thorium experimental Kamini reactor in Kalpakkam has logged up impressive hours of operation and, in this technology, India is second to none. This apparently has not impressed Manmohan Singh PM and concurrently Minister for Atomic Energy in the last decade, enough!!

  3. Shaurya says:

    Best way to undo the damage is two years of sustained testing under the protection of a Russian veto on UN sanctions.

  4. Shaurya says:

    I have long felt that the way forward for India is to hedge its bets on our three stage program and the more riskier but with greater potential rewards fusion route, being a participant of ITER. While these two things pan out, we need to double down on base loads from plants to burn coal, gas and tap into the hydro potential within (est. 150 MW) and in our near abroad. Gas is eminently doable with vast reserves in our near abroad both east and west.

    Even the Uranium route can be further explored and invested into with supplies from some non NSG members and if Putin stays in power for a decade more than maybe even from Russia?

  5. Atul says:

    I wonder whether we can afford buying these reactors at all. The rate of energy from hydroelectric power sources is almost below a rupee per unit. The next are thermal and gas fired units which cost about 4-5 rupees per unit. The solar ones are bit costly at 7 rupees per unit but this price is coming down gradually at the level of thermal ones. The energy unit price at Kudankulum’s PWR would be around 3-4 rupees too.

    Then, on what basis can Indian government buy AREVA’s EPR french reactors at more than 9 rupees per unit and American Westinghouse’s AP1000 reactors at more than 12 rupees per unit. Where will the money come from, rather from which taxpayer’s pocket?

    Difficult questions, indeed!!

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