Bound hand & foot, nuclear-wise in Tokyo and the cost of delaying Brahmos to Vietnam

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is Tokyo-bound, there to sign a nuclear cooperation deal along the lines of a similar deal in 2008 with the United States. Have often wondered in my writings this incomprehensible desire of the Indian government headed by whosoever — Manmohan one year, Modi the next — to hamstring the country strategically. This deal with Japan too will have the clause of the deal-break in case India resumes nuclear testing at any time in the future. Because Japan has grown more hypocritical with the years even when compared to India, this anti-nuclear attitude of the Shinzo Abe regime occasions even less understanding, given Japan can become a nuclear weapon state quite literally over little more than a weekend.But the Japanese government, long in the American shadow, is habituated to aping the US.

However, this N-testing provision as deal breaker is sought to be kept hidden by GOI and, at Modi’s request, Tokyo agreed not to mention this conditionality in the public document, but rather in a separate “secret” document, as if this basis for the deal is a big secret. The Modi PMO, however, fears it will unnecessarily remind and rile up the few of us who remain concerned about GOI so easily surrendering its sovereign right to credible nuclear security, by postponing open ended N-tests and thereby persisting with untested and unproven fusion weapons arsenal.

There’s also some doubt whether Modi will be persuaded by Abe to be a bit bolder in his foreign policy where China is concerned, because New Delhi’s posture turns leonine only when Pakistan comes into view. The Indian PM hasn’t had the strategic wit to shrug off American pressure and expeditiously transfer the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile to Vietnam. So, it is unlikely he appreciates the need to strategically hamper China all along its coastline in the South China Sea, the East Sea, and the Yellow Sea, or the value of intensive military cooperation with Japan.

This reluctance of Modi’s makes no sense whatsoever in the light of China shopping its supersonic cruise missile — CM-302 in its export form, YJ-12 at the Zhuhai Air Show. How long do Modi, Doval & Co. believe it will be before the Pakistan Navy secures this missile? It stands to reason they will not even appreciate the fact that India’s repeated buckling under US pressure and postponing the Brahmos transfer has lost New Delhi the opportunity to leverage the threats of arming other states on China’s periphery with this sea-skimming anti-ship missile to prevent to, at least, limit the sale of the YJ-12s to Pakistan.

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 arms exports, Asian geopolitics, China, China military, Defence Industry, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Navy, Indian Ocean, Japan, Missiles, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, nuclear power, Nuclear Weapons, Pakistan, Pakistan military, South Asia, South East Asia, Strategic Relations with South East Asia & Far East, Strategic Relations with the US & West, United States, US., Vietnam, Weapons. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Bound hand & foot, nuclear-wise in Tokyo and the cost of delaying Brahmos to Vietnam

  1. Shaurya says:

    Hope Modi has the good sense to put India First – means Indian strategic security first and at the opportune time take advantage of a Trump Presidency and do the needful to fulfill Indian security needs. Pokhran III.

  2. andy says:

    For the past five years Vietnam has been asking India for the Brahmos missile but nothing has transpired on this front except a lot of hot air emanating from the Indian side .

    The latest round was in june of this year, when a flurry of newspaper reports (including reuters)suggested that a Brahmos transfer to vietnam was imminent. But as usual nothing has happened till date.

    China has repeatedly been needling India by stalling its NSG membership and also masood azhars being declared a terrorist in the UN.The recent deal for 8 Chinese submarines for Pakistan, along with a host of other actions inimical to Indias interests, have clearly shown that the Chinese care two hoots for Indias core interests and are willing to treat India with barely concealed contempt and disregard for sensitivities.This apart from clandestinely helping the pak nuclear program and overtly helping the pakis by transferring a host of missiles and other conventional armament (Nasr,AlKhalid tank,JF17 fighter, etc etc)

    They are not only building the CEPEC through POK,which is territory illegally occupied by the Pakistanis and claimed by India ,but have procured the Shaksgam area from Pakistan.On the other hand they expect India to ‘heed’ chinas sensitivities by not allowing the Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal pradesh which they brazenly refer to as south Tibet.As for the more than $50 billion trade deficit that India has with china the Global Times,a chinese govt mouthpiece, states that Indians can only bark about the rising trade deficit but can in reality do very little about it.

    The point to make is,how long is India going to hobbled by the old ways(pussilanimous?) of doing things?the results of which are staring us in the face.The way India has been walking on eggshells vis a vis the Brahmos missile transfer to Vietnam one is tempted to think that GOI is lily livered to say the least.

    Afterall its just a missile transfer to Vietnam,not an open declaration of war against the Chinese.India can do at least this much to make a point to the chinese regarding further arms transfers to Pakistan.

  3. Vivek says:

    Why USA will pressurize India NOT to sell Brahmos as a countermeasure to china??

    • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

      Because a hegemon interested in a tango with the other hegemon would rather do an ‘innocent passage’ instead of supplying weapons to smaller states like Phillippines and Vietnam. Lest these smaller states actually disturb the dance. Such a dance of hegemons requires spectators/tamaashbeens.

      Tamaashbeens who are rather equipped with an army of lions is lead by a lamb.

      usni.org/2015/11/02/u-s-destroyer-made-an-innocent-passage-near-chinese-south-chia-sea-artificial-island-in-recent-mission
      lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/innocent-passage-did-us-just-fumble-its-south-china-sea-strategy

      And while Vajpayees and Modis have already complied with their finger pointing at China and their LEMOA signings, here is another lamb leading an army of lions. This time from Japan.
      channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/japan-brushes-off-trump-suggestion-it-might-adopt-nuclear-weapon/3275698.html

      A dropping of the proposal by the Japanese ‘defence’ minister right after Trump had made the proposal in public:
      vox.com/2016/3/30/11332074/donald-trump-nuclear-weapons-japan-south-korea-saudi-arabia

      I have something in Hindi that I would rather reserve for the private ears of General and Admiral class, whenever we meet in person. 😀 But welcome again, meet the real Kejris of the world.

      In simpler language, Brahmos is too dangerous for diplomacy and world peace.

  4. armchair says:

    Any deal on aero engine development will add more value to the bilateral ties.

  5. Venkat says:

    Modi puts India first. In every write up you make it look like GoI has bunch of bumbling idiots , not true.

  6. “Now, though, while Japan has relented, the two countries will also agree that if India conducts a nuclear test, Japan will stop civil nuclear cooperation, Yomiuri reported, according to SCMP.”

    Which reactors will Japan build in India?Exactly which nuclear tech are we incapable of producing ourselves given appropriate investment in it? How will these reactors get past our liability law? Who is pushing for these nuclear deals in India? Who has interest in these deals is it BARC?

    http://m.timesofindia.com/india/India-this-week-to-become-first-non-NPT-nation-to-sign-nuclear-deal-with-Japanreports-Yomiuri-Shimbun/articleshow/55274470.cms

  7. andy says:

    @Primeargument.
    To partly answer your questions,What is the single greatest factor that prevents the large-scale deployment of thorium-fuelled reactors in India? Most people would assume that it is a limitation of technology, still just out of grasp. After all, the construction of the advanced heavy-water reactor (AHWR) — a 300 MWe, indigenously designed, thorium-fuelled, commercial technology demonstrator — was put off several times since it was first announced in 2004. However, scientists at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre have successfully tested all relevant thorium-related technologies in the laboratory, achieving even industrial scale capability in some of them. In fact, if pressed, India could probably begin full-scale deployment of thorium reactors in ten years. The single greatest hurdle, to answer the original question, is the critical shortage of fissile material.

    A fissile material is one that can sustain a chain reaction upon bombardment by neutrons. Thorium is by itself fertile, meaning that it can transmute into a fissile radioisotope but cannot itself keep a chain reaction going. In a thorium reactor, a fissile material like uranium or plutonium is blanketed by thorium. The fissile material, also called a driver in this case, drives the chain reaction to produce energy while simultaneously transmuting the fertile material into fissile material. India has very modest deposits of uranium and some of the world’s largest sources of thorium. It was keeping this in mind that in 1954, Homi Bhabha envisioned India’s nuclear power programme in three stages to suit the country’s resource profile. In the first stage, heavy water reactors fuelled by natural uranium would produce plutonium; the second stage would initially be fuelled by a mix of the plutonium from the first stage and natural uranium. This uranium would transmute into more plutonium and once sufficient stocks have been built up, thorium would be introduced into the fuel cycle to convert it into uranium 233 for the third stage. In the final stage, a mix of thorium and uranium fuels the reactors. The thorium transmutes to U-233 as in the second stage, which powers the reactor. Fresh thorium can replace the depleted thorium in the reactor core, making it essentially a thorium-fuelled reactor even though it is the U-233 that is undergoing fission to produce electricity.

    After decades of operating pressurised heavy-water reactors (PHWR), India is at the second stage. A 500 MW Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) at Kalpakkam is ready and four more fast breeder reactors have been sanctioned, two at the same site and two elsewhere. However, experts estimate that it would take India many more FBRs and at least another four decades before it has built up a sufficient fissile material inventory to launch the third stage. The earliest projections place major thorium reactor construction in the late 2040s, some past 2070. India cannot wait that long.

    The obvious solution to India’s shortage of fissile material is to procure it from the international market. As yet, there exists no commerce in plutonium though there is no law that expressly forbids it. In fact, most nuclear treaties such as the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material address only U-235 and U-233, presumably because plutonium has so far not been considered a material suited for peaceful purposes. The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) merely mandates that special fissionable material — which includes plutonium — if transferred, be done so under safeguards. Thus, the legal rubric for safeguarded sale of plutonium already exists. The physical and safety procedures for moving radioactive spent fuel and plutonium also already exists.

    So mostly, Indias indigenous civil nuclear program is lagging because of shortage of fissile material,the trade in which is tightly controlled by the NPT members,with the USA in the front.From this it can be inferred why India is buying reactors from the US and Japan.

    • There are options like AHWR reactors to fast track shift to thorium. With US N-deal waver we have access to Uranium in world market. We can build our own Heavy water reactors for producing plutonium which is better at it than light water reactor which is what we are buying from west.

      Question is whether safeguarded reactors or imported fuel allow reprocessing of fuel and use of plutonium for our 2nd stage unhindered. From what is out in open our fast breeder reactors are unsafeguarded. If we put reprocessed plutonium from foreign fuel in them then they will become safeguarded too.

      All in all from my limited knowledge I see some point in importing nuclear fuel but have seen no argument of what specific tech we need to import and can’t build on own with investment. Is it reprocessing tech, is it large reactor tech(Russian),Safety?
      New mines have come up in Andhra(reserve among the largest in the world) and Meghalaya. Who knows we may not be too worse of in uranium reserves either.

  8. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    @Andy – Re. “Most people would assume that it is a limitation of technology, still just out of grasp……….However, scientists at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre have successfully tested all relevant thorium-related technologies in the laboratory, achieving even industrial scale capability in some of them.”

    All tech that is easily usable must be given a development path that fructifies into the eventual goal only in the future. That is how the de-armament, de-militarization or recessed-deterrence works. World policy since NPT. You will always find people who love foreigners peddling the theory of ‘long term gains’ for taking up the tech imports when in fact they are tech-dependency creation exercises and ‘short term gains’ of meeting urgent military requirements when in fact the earlier dependencies had created these urgent situations in the first place.

    Further not just BARC, the world has already done most of the work or are more than willing to burn money in this direction.

    In fact the first known confirmation, I could find, of Thorium breeding ratios being equivalent to other systems, was from the Russian sources. I wonder why was it so when in fact USA, Europe and even India has been working on these things since ages.

    So my guess is that thorium tech is deliberately being kept on the slow track. And here are the reasons I feel so:
    1) Established research show that Molten Salt based Thorium fueled reactors will also generate a log of Tritium. And any country with ability to recover this Tritium will have Thermonuclear weapons too.

    2) The U-233 that will ultimately be generated has some crucial characterstics (weaponization related) that are nearer to U-235 than to Pu-239. This again implies easier route to Thermonuclear weapons (Sponteneous fission neutron production, decay heat, EoS). In fact another characterstic which is also crucial for Thermonuclear weapons is critical mass, in which case the U-233 is more like Pu-239 than like U-235. So again a better route to Thermonuclear weapons.

    3) Only place U-233 lags is that it is an emitter of hard gamma rays well beyond the energies of U-235 or even Pu-239. But even here if you are willing to understand the science it is a no problemo. Firstly the hard gamma rays are more of a production handling related problem than anything else. Production handling can be automated easily with government resources. Secondly the U-233 would replace the Pu-239 or U-235 in the core. The secondary itself can be made of U-238 which produces far far less of hard penetrating Gamma rays and will act as a method to average out the Gamma Ray hardness per kg per m^2 of weapon form factor. So a working design will not per kg be any more difficult to manage than any other kind of design. Thirdly, the reason we get hard gamma rays from usable U-233 is because the U-233 is invariably contaminated with U-232 and it is the U-232 which decays Thorium-228 etc. etc. as a penultimate step decaying to Thallium-208, which, in turn, decays to Pb-208 (stable) while in the process emitting 2.6–MeV gamma radiation. So if we can get rid of or average out the U-232 we can get the super-grade U-233 which will make things even easier. So to average out the gamma ray production you will have to ensure that the mix of U-233 is from different batches taken from blankets over a period of time such that U-232+Th-228+Tl208 etc. are all also averaged out. Fourthly just as the weapon-grade Pu-239 is produced from low burned up U-235 fuel similarly weapon-grade U-233 (with least amount of U-232) can also be produced from low burned up Th-232 fuel cycles. Point #Firstly & #Secondly & #Thirdly & #Fourthly, were based on the presumption that U-322 (whatever proportions) stays in-situ after the Purex / Thorex separates the components of various masses. But #Fifthly can be one step further by physically separating U-232 from U-233. A problem similar to separation of Pu-239 & Pu-238. Thus Fifthly we will require Avlis to take out U-232 from U-233 a somewhat challenging task given only one neutron different in mass. However even this is done by BARC. Now you will find people who will claim that Avlis can only happen sometime in future in India but that is because this story has been delibrately spread and it serves the purpose of those who have their loyalties to foreigners to keep repeating it. India too will come up with a full fledged Avlis plant but only after the Chinese make it public and threaten to supply it to Pakistan. Till that point BARC will not be allowed to make a full fledged Avlis plant. Meantime we will take routes that are only meant to delay this eventuality of an Indian Avlis plant like for example putting an inordinate amount of time and resources in Centrifuges.

    Net result Indian Thorium plant will not come up ever because N-5 will not declare an Avlis plant or will delare it closed such that our establishment gets the benefit, of plausible deniability, of even having this technology as a usable item.

    References :
    1) How overstated is the U-232 contamination problem is given by this link at page 6 “U-232 Radiation Hazard” – torium.se/res/Documents/9_1kang.pdf – page 10 actually says with references that “India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has been concerned about the occupational hazards associated with the fabrication of fuel containing U-233. Its long-term ambition is to cleanse U-233 down to “a few ppm” U-232 using laser isotope purification.7 ”
    2) Check out “TABLE A-1 Properties of Nuclear-Explosive Nuclides” on Page 222 of this link to understand the properties of U-233 – nap.edu/read/11265/chapter/8#222

  9. andy says:

    If India can get plutonium trading exemption from the NPT it will go a long way in getting the FBRs off and running.Thorium reactors have come to be of great interest to many countries in the last few years, and Europe yet remains intrigued by FBRs as their work on ASTRID, ALFRED, and ELSY shows.

    The unseemly emphasis on thorium technology has many reasons. One, thorium reactors produce far less waste than present-day reactors. Two, they have the ability to burn up most of the highly radioactive and long-lasting minor actinides that makes nuclear waste from Light Water Reactors a nuisance to deal with. Three, the minuscule waste that is generated is toxic for only three or four hundred years rather than thousands of years. Four, thorium reactors are cheaper because they have higher burnup. And five, thorium reactors are significantly more proliferation-resistant than present reactors. This is because the U-233 produced by transmuting thorium also contains U-232, a strong source of gamma radiation that makes it difficult to work with. Its daughter product, thallium-208, is equally difficult to handle and easy to detect.

    The mainstreaming of thorium reactors worldwide thus offers an enormous advantage to proliferation-resistance as well as the environment. Admittedly, there still remains a proliferation risk, but these can be addressed by already existing safeguards. For India, it offers the added benefit that it can act as a guarantor for the lifetime supply of nuclear fuel for reactors if it chooses to enter the export market, something it is unable to do for uranium-fuelled reactors.

    It is clear that India stands to profit greatly from plutonium trading but what compelling reason does the world have to accommodate India? The most significant carrot would be that all of India’s FBRs that are tasked for civilian purposes can come under international safeguards in a system similar to the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal,I know that such a step wont be very popular on this forum but its necessary if FBRs are to be fast tracked.Safeguarded reactors are anyways a reality after the India US nuclear deal and now the India Japan N deal.

    There is little doubt that India will one day have a fleet of FBRs and large quantities of fissile material that can easily be redirected towards its weapons programme. These safeguards will limit how quickly India can grow its nuclear arsenal to match that of, say, China( but how many nuclear bombs are enough to obliterate both China andPakistan?) Delhi has shown no inclination to do so until now, but the world community would surely prefer that as much as possible of India’s plutonium was locked under safeguards.

    The U.S. could perhaps emerge as the greatest obstacle to plutonium commerce. Washington has been resolutely opposed to reprocessing since the Carter administration, preferring instead the wasteful once-through, open fuel cycle. Although the U.S. cannot prevent countries from trading in plutonium, it has the power to make it uncomfortable for them via sanctions, reduced scientific cooperation, and other mechanisms. The strong non-proliferation lobby in the U.S. is also likely to be nettled that a non-signatory of the NPT would now move to open and regulate trade in plutonium. The challenge for Delhi is to convince Washington to sponsor rather than oppose such a venture. In this, a sizeable portion of the nuclear industry could be Delhi’s allies.

    By some estimates India has enough Thorium reserves to generate 500 GW of electrcity for 400 years,so sooner rather than later the FBRs are going to be built.

    Scientists predict that the impact of climate change will be worse on India. Advancing the deployment of thorium reactors by four to six decades via a plutonium market might be the most effective step towards curtailing carbon emissions.

  10. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    Re. “Washington has been resolutely opposed to reprocessing since the Carter administration, preferring instead the wasteful once-through, open fuel cycle. ”

    This has nothing to do with Washington’s wishes. Once through is cheaper, better profiled/accountable for and a serves a real market.

    MOX fuels or plutonium trading is costly and ends up generating even more plutonium and the non-proliferation accounting is so bloody difficult that it makes little sense to use this approach for anybody except those suffering sanctions.

    Sew up the following information into a thread and then see what happens.

    1) “After approval by the NRC, the reactor licensee would insert a maximum of 40 percent of the reactor core with MOX fuel.” – nrc.gov/materials/fuel-cycle-fac/mox/faq.html#7
    Note – MOX will use at least 60% of natural uranium which will produce more plutonium as directed by United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission above.

    2) ” The potential for breeding new plutonium was a major concern of the United States in negotiations over the PMDA Protocol and resulted in restrictions on producing new plutonium in these fast reactors using this material. The verification agreement negotiations include discussions of how to technically verify this. In the 2010 Protocol, Russia agreed to restrictions on the reactors that are intended to prevent the creation of more plutonium than is destroyed.19″ – fas.org/sgp/crs/nuke/R43125.pdf

    & the following:

    “funding for the plutonium fuel facility falls within the nuclear nonproliferation budget………………Other observers, including within the executive branch, note that the purpose of this program is nonproliferation—rendering weapons-grade plutonium unusable for nuclear weapons on the basis of mutual verification. The American Nuclear Society has come out strongly in favor of the program for nonproliferation reasons.23″

    3) “Shaw AREVA proposed to “verify” the presence of all SNM items every day by comparing
    the data in the Perpetual Inventory Report with the data stored in the PLCs. Shaw AREVA maintained that the data within the PLCs represented the actual locations of all SNM items within the facility, so that a comparison of the expected locations of items (the Perpetual Inventory Report) with their actual locations (PLC data) would serve to verify the presence of the items (ASLB 2014, 20). Shaw AREVA asserted that this procedure would verify the presence of 100 percent of the items every day, therefore exceeding the regulatory requirement of 99 percent verification within three to 60 days. In other words, Shaw AREVA proposed to rely entirely on the data within computer systems to “verify” the presence of SNM items. It would not perform actual physical verifications in the traditional manner, by selecting items to verify, removing them from storage, and inspecting them to ensure that they are indeed the correct items. Fundamentally, the approach assumes that the data stored in the PLCs is a 100 percent accurate representation of the actual locations of items, and that the data in the MMIS is a 100 percent accurate representation of the book inventory. And it assumes that the two systems (and their operators) are completely independent, so that a comparison of the data sets will provide meaningful verification. But, of course, no set of computer data can be relied on to be 100 percent accurate at all times.” – Union of Concerned Scientists – ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2015/01/Excess%20Plutonium%20Disposition.pdf

    MOX was to begin with the attempt by non-proliferation community to find a technical solution for their reasons. But the whole thing went nowhere like most of the so called high technology of USA. Most amount of these failed investments were made in Bush-2 and Obama years. I am sure for the sake of ‘Mere Barak’ the Modi govt. asked to import this idea and waste Indian money on it given that this tech has no future in USA. Then the BARC that can do much much better can be reduced to the status of an failed accountant that can find pride in perpetual accounting softwares of the most advanced kind. Real high-tech indeed!

    Or may be the genius of Modi can do a reverse of the whole deal and save money by simply selling off the Indian unprocessed plutonium to somebody stupid enough to buy it. Modi can do this too….Modi Modi Modi 😀

    May be Modi can sell off the unprocessed spent fuel to Pakistan, now that we have too much of this thing that hogs the small resources of nuclear industry in India.

    Why not just put money in Avlis that BARC already is acquainted with?

  11. andy says:

    I am talking about technologies for the future. In so far as economics is concerned ,the present tech for using reprocessed fuel is expensive, but the fourth gen fast neutron reactors change the whole picture.The worlds known uranium resources will run out in about 100 years at present consumption rates, so the only way forward is reprocessing.The FBRs were envisioned by Babha in the 1950s precisely to use Indias vast Thorium reserves, which can as I pointed out earlier,generate 500 GW of electricity for 400 years.Plus, Economics cannot be the sole criteria for using some element as potent as uranium.

    Used nuclear fuel has long been reprocessed to extract fissile materials for recycling and to reduce the volume of high-level wastes.

    Recycling today is largely based on the conversion of fertile U-238 to fissile plutonium.

    New reprocessing technologies are being developed to be deployed in conjunction with fast neutron reactors which will burn all long-lived actinides, including all uranium and plutonium, without separating them from one another.

    A significant amount of plutonium recovered from used fuel is currently recycled into MOX fuel; a small amount of recovered uranium is recycled so far.
    A key, nearly unique, characteristic of nuclear energy is that used fuel may be reprocessed to recover fissile and fertile materials in order to provide fresh fuel for existing and future nuclear power plants. Several European countries, Russia, China and Japan have policies to reprocess used nuclear fuel, although government policies in many other countries have not yet come round to seeing used fuel as a resource rather than a waste.

    Over the last 50 years the principal reason for reprocessing used fuel has been to recover unused plutonium, along with less immediately useful unused uranium, in the used fuel elements and thereby close the fuel cycle, gaining some 25% to 30% more energy from the original uranium in the process. This contributes to national energy security. A secondary reason is to reduce the volume of material to be disposed of as high-level waste to about one-fifth. In addition, the level of radioactivity in the waste from reprocessing is much smaller and after about 100 years falls much more rapidly than in used fuel itself.

    These are all considerations based on current power reactors, but moving to fourth-generation fast neutron reactors in the late 2020s changes the outlook dramatically, and means that not only used fuel from today’s reactors but also the large stockpiles of depleted uranium (from enrichment plants, about 1.5 million tonnes in 2015) become a fuel source. Uranium mining will become much less significant.

    Another major change relates to wastes. In the last decade interest has grown in recovering all long-lived actinides together (i.e. with plutonium) so as to recycle them in fast reactors so that they end up as short-lived fission products. This policy is driven by two factors: reducing the long-term radioactivity in high-level wastes, and reducing the possibility of plutonium being diverted from civil use – thereby increasing proliferation resistance of the fuel cycle. If used fuel is not reprocessed, then in a century or two the built-in radiological protection will have diminished, allowing the plutonium to be recovered for illicit use (though it is unsuitable for weapons due to the non-fissile isotopes present).

    Actinides are elements 89 to 103, actinium to lawrencium, including thorium, protactinium and uranium as well as transuranics, notably neptunium, plutonium, americium, cerium and californium. The minor actinides in used fuel are all except uranium and plutonium.Reprocessing used fuel to recover uranium (as reprocessed uranium, or RepU) and plutonium (Pu) avoids the wastage of a valuable resource. Most of it – about 96% – is uranium, of which less than 1% is the fissile U-235 (often 0.4-0.8%); and up to 1% is plutonium. Both can be recycled as fresh fuel, saving up to 30% of the natural uranium otherwise required. The RepU is chiefly valuable for its fertile potential, being transformed into plutonium-239 which may be burned in the reactor where it is formed.

    So far, some 90,000 tonnes (of 290,000 t discharged) of used fuel from commercial power reactors has been reprocessed. Annual reprocessing capacity is now about 4500 tonnes per year for normal oxide fuels, but not all of it is operational.Between 2010 and 2030 some 400,000 tonnes of used fuel is expected to be generated worldwide, including 60,000 t in North America and 69,000 t in Europe.

    So questioning the jump from open fuel to reprocessing in 2016 is like someone questioning the use of Internal combustion engines in lieu of steam engines in 1916,everyone knows what became of the steam engines,the same fate awaits the third gen nuclear reactors.Cannot compare the technology on ww2 fighter planes with those on the PAKFA now can you?

    I am sure Pakistan will readily oblige if India wants to off load any plutonium to them, but hopefully no one in GOI will dream up such a hare brained scheme.

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