Indo-French Nuclear Cooperation — Meltdown Waiting to Happen? By Ali Raza

In 1945, the United States used Nagasaki and Hiroshima, two major cities of Japan, as testing sites for nuclear weapons, leading WWIIto an end. When the world witnessed disastrous consequences of the use of nuclear weapons in conventional warfare, it became the need of the hour to restrict other states from acquiring these lethal weapons.
After the use of an atomic weapon, the entire world and the US in particular, realised that atomic weapons are the most lethal and catastrophic weapons, in fact, it is inhumane to use these weapons against civilian targets. Then US President Eisenhower coined the idea of “Atom for Peace” which subsequently paved way for peaceful usage of nuclear technology.
The prime agenda associated with the Atoms for Peace program was to promote peaceful use of nuclear power, rather than deploying it for weapon creation. The motivation was to make the world a better and safer place to live, and equip almost all nations with the means toutilise nuclear energy positively.
It was a considerably striking idea for the world to attain benefits from nuclear energy, because the only goal was to help developing countries produce electricity and conduct basic research in nuclear engineering. Some moral obligations were attached to this plan, whereby it was outlined that any state to receive assistance in terms of nuclear technology would only be able to use it for peaceful designs, and not for military expansion.
Under the umbrella of Atoms for Peace, India built two research reactors Apsara and Cirus with the cooperation of UK and Canada. Later on, India betrayed the actual spirit of the Atoms for Peace plan and conducted its first nuclear test on 18 May, 1974, under the codename Smiling Buddha. Once India acquired nuclear weapons, the world became a little less safe than it used to be.
India’s diversion from peaceful nuclear technology to weapons development was a slap on the serious concerns and reservations put forth by policymakers and nuclear scientists, who long feared the disastrous impacts of the nuclear weapon.
During a recent visit, President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron seems to have agreed to significant collaboration with India in different sectors,including strategic partnership, and economics, educational, science & technology, cultural and people-to-people cooperation, etc.
Every area under this partnership has its own complexities and drawbacks. Moreover, there are a number of serious concerns attached to the area of strategic partnership — a point that should worry the international community.
Under strategic partnership in pursuance of 2008 Agreement on the Development of Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy between India and France have concluded the Industrial Way Forward Agreement between NPCIL and EDF, for the implementation of six nuclear power reactor units at Jaitapur.
According to the locals, the area that has been designated for the construction of power reactors is one with high seismic activity. The proposed area will also severely affect the livelihoods of thousands of locals. Realising the harmful impacts of these nuclear power reactors without any comprehensive safety layout, protests had also been reported against this project in Jaitapur.
An umbrella organisation for groups fighting the project,Jan Hakka Seva Samiti President Satyajit Chavan said, “What the government is doing now is ridiculous. If the DAE wants to inspect functional Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR), they should have placed this demand before giving environmental clearance. This only proves how badly the whole project was designed.”
The protests clearly show that the inhabitants of Jaitapur are extremely concerned about the project and aware of the fact that this project may turn into a nuclear disaster like Fukushima. On the other hand, the Indian government has kept mum over the concerns expressed by the locals and this illustrates that it does not care for the interest of its own population.
If a state is unable to address the reservations of its own population, how will it care for the norms and values of the international community?
What is alarming is that under the garb of peaceful nuclear technology, India acutely ridiculed the spirit of Atoms for Peace and committed a historical blunder by using plutonium out of a civilian reactor to build a nuclear weapon. Therefore, under the Indo-French nuclear cooperation,India is once again looking forward to gaining “peaceful” advantages, but if history is anything to go by, they will once again shun their moral obligations and go the wrong way.
What is alarming is that under the garb of peaceful nuclear technology, India acutely ridiculed the spirit of Atoms for Peace and committed a historical blunder by using plutonium out of a civilian reactor to build a nuclear weapon
The International community must step into stop the illicit use of nuclear technology in India. Foreign nuclear assistance to India has freed India’s domestic resources for nuclear weapons development. India is seeking foreign nuclear assistance to make more bombs from domestic resources. As several reports point out, India is the only nuclear power, which has the largest stocks of unsafe uranium resources. It is up to the international community to analyse whether India needs foreign nuclear assistance,particularly when it has large amounts ofunprotectednuclear material.
The writer is a visiting faculty member at Air University, Islamabad. He holds master’s degree in Strategic and Nuclear Studies (S&NS) from National Defence University, Islamabad. He can be reached at
Published in Daily Times, June 8th 2018.

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