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India and Nuclear Issues – Connecting the Dots

By- Tauseef Ahmad

Here is a synopsis on “Nuclear Issues” Related to India

First of all we should understand the very diverse nature of this topic: Let’s start paper wise.

Paper 1: World War: Nuclear Race, Dropping on Japan etc

Paper 2:


  • India’s nuclear program: Civil and Weapon

  • Policies: India’s Nuclear Doctrine and other policies related to it

  • Institutions: Department of Atomic Energy, Atomic Energy Commission, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, BARC, NPCIL,BHAVINI

  • Mandate: Of above mentioned institutions and related issues and controversies

  • Bills: Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill, 2011

  • Reports: Public Account Committee Report on AERB

  • Acts: Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010

  • Supreme Court’s Verdict on Kudankulam


  • Strategic issues related to other countries nuclear program for India like Pakistan’s, China’s and Iran nuclear programs.

  • International conventions on nuclear energy laws

  • Bilateral relations affecting Nuclear issues with India viz a viz USA, Russia and Japan

  • Recently concluded Tehran deal also affects India but strategically and economically.

  • Institution: International Atomic Energy Agency

  • Developments: ITER : International Thermonuclear Experiment Reactor

Paper 3

  • Government Budgeting: On Nuclear sectors

  • Infrastructure: Energy

  • Science and Technology Developments: Stages of Nuclear program in India

  • Achievements of Indians in Nuclear energy field

  • Indigenization of Nuclear technology and developments there in

  • Sustainable development issue: Nuclear Fusion provide sustainable development: India is working with ITER as full member

  • Environmental Impact Assessment related to nuclear power plants

  • Disaster and Disaster management: Especially in the backdrop of Fukushima Nuclear disaster but we will also look into other disaster like Chernboyl, Three Mile Island etc for lesson.

  • Security issues: Threats to Nuclear Power Plants through terrorism, Cyber terrorism, Air attacks etc

Now I have connected all possible angles with respect to our syllabus

I will just put some important issues because covering all things is possible but to write them is hectic. So I am just mentioning the most important ones. Already I have drafted how all papers are related to each other. Please try to connect like this. Its work of few hours but it is for ever.

Paper 1: Do you think it’s related to paper 1, which seems so conventional.   😛

Yeah it is,  how?

Trace the world history: World War 2: Nuclear attack on Japan by USA

Two bombs, A Little Boy atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, followed by a Fat Man bomb on the city of Nagasaki on August 9.

Before that the development of nuclear bomb:


In 1939, World War II started America and Germany was in a race to build the first atomic bomb. Already, the theoretical framework of the Nuclear Bomb had been provided by Alfred Einstein. The United States & UK launched a massive research and product program called the Manhattan Project.  The first self sustaining nuclear reaction was shown by Fermi, and at the same time scientists led by Robert Oppenheimer built and tested the first nuclear bomb at Los Alamos, New Mexico, USA.


In the late 1950s, there was the invention of the hydrogen bomb by Edward Teller from the principle of nuclear fusion. Some more developments such as nuclear power generation for nuclear submarine and the nuclear-power aircraft carrier took place.  In 1953, US President D. Eisenhower addressed the United Nations in his “Atoms for Peace” speech.  In this speech, he called for international co-operation in the development of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. At the same time, other countries such as Soviet Union, the UK, the USA, France and Canada already started their civil nuclear program.

Now from here on, paper 2 and 3 will be merged while discussion.

India’s nuclear program: Three stages:

First Stage: Following Reactors

  1. Boiling Water Reactor

  2. Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor

  3. Pressurized water Reactor


  • In 1962, India signed an agreement with USA and got two BWR.

  • First installed reactor at Tarapore.

  • Light water as moderator and coolant

  • Enriched uranium as Fuel

What is Uranium Enrichment: UE is an artificial process in which the percentage of U-235 is enhanced and for this purpose, centrifuges are used. Natural Uranium consists 99.3 % of U-238 which is not fissile material i.e not suitable as fuel and 0.7 % of U-235, which is very fissile and used as fuel.

So it is required to convert it in maximum percentage for use.

On the basis of enrichment, uranium is of two types: Low Enriched Uranium and High Enriched Uranium

LEU: Enrichment is up to 5 % and it is used in nuclear reactor: Under Indo-US nuclear deal, India will get HEU: Weapon grade up to 90%


  • Also known as CANDU- Canadian Deuterium Uranium

  • Heavy water as moderator and coolant

  • Natural uranium as fuel

  • Majority of India’s working reactor are this


  • Light Water Reactor

  • Light water as the moderator and coolant

  • Enriched uranium as fuel

  • USP is safety mechanisms incorporated in them

  • Belong to Generation III +

India is having PWR from Russia and France

VVER: Voda Voda Energy Reactor from Russia

Second stage: Only one type of reactor

Fast Breeder Reactor:

  • First at Kalpakkam in TN

  • Uses Pu-239 as fuel and u-238 is converted into Pu-239

  • Also known as Fast Neutron Reactor

  • No moderator

  • Coolant is liquid Na

Third Stage:

AHWR: Advanced Heavy Water Reactor: BARC is developing

  • Fuel is U-233 but it will use Thorium to make U-233, so very important

  • Light water as coolant

  • Heavy water as moderator

India’s Nuclear Tests: 1974 and 1998


India’s Nuclear Doctrine: Google it please 

Institutions: I think I already mentioned them above. Kindly have a look on their functioning and mandate like how they formed and what are the constitutional or other provisions on which they formed. Means are the constitutional Bodies or Statutory or Autonomous?


Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill, 2011

In the backdrop of Fukushima disaster, Indian Parliament came up with Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill for legal framework regarding nuclear safety.

I am not covering the whole bill but mentioning the issues only.

  • Setting up of NSRA subsumes Atomic Energy Regulatory Board

  • This AERB is not autonomous. DoAE supervises over this board and include Atomic energy Commission. This commission is headed by Secretary, DoAE and it also supervises NPCIL.

  • This is the conflicting issue because the same person is heading the affected (AERB) and the affecting (NPCIL) agencies.

Public Account Committee report on AERB

It gave its report on two important issues: First on the working of AERB and second on the re-examination of NSRA bill. It recommended providing autonomous status to AERB.

Civil Liability on Nuclear Damage Act, 2010:

Now here comes the killer. I am connecting whole international and national scenario at one place in story form. Hope you people like this.

In 1962, India signed an agreement with USA. Under the deal, General Electric, agreed to supply two boiling water reactor under the condition of grant of exemption on the liability of operator. India happily granted as it was craving for nuclear reactor.

In 1965, same deal with Canada’s AECL to get PHWR. India was happily using these reactors when a watershed moment in Indian history occurred.

Nuclear Test, 1974:  Smiling Buddha (Why this name?)

Three tests were conducted and all were fission device. The outcome of this nuclear test was formation of Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG), and America and Canada cancelled their deal with India. In this backdrop, USSR came as savior and provided heavy water reactor to India.

In 1988, Inter-Governmental Agreement was signed between India and USSR, whereby USSR agreed to provide two VVER. The same exemption clause was put by them and India again very happily .

In 1992, NSG adopted the “Full Scope Safeguard” mechanism and it wanted Russia to bring the agreement with India under this. But Russia refused to do it as it was retrospective in nature.

In 1988, a Supplementary Agreement was signed between India and Russia for Kudankulam reactors. (Exemption again  )

When India conducted Nuclear Test of 1998, Operation Shakti, new sanctions were imposed on it and Wests even narrated its failure. There comes the full agreement between Russia and India for conduction of Nuclear reactors.

Nuclear Test 1998:

This test differs from test of 1974. How?

Five tests: Four like previous test but one was thermonuclear device

123 Agreement: ( why it is called 123? )

In 2005, India and USA signed the historic deal (123 agreement) and the same year, Russia agreed to provide six VVER each of 1000 MW capacity at Kudankulam. Like previous agreements , this time also, exemption was granted.

The same time India engaged with IAEA for entering into Safeguard Mechanism, under which India’s civil nuclear program would be placed under IAEA watch.

Hyde Act: This legally enabled the resumption of civil nuclear energy cooperation of NSG members with India.
Before US firm could step to India for business, India enact Civil Nuclear Liability Act, 2010. There is one section called 17(b) which says: Also called Right to Recourse

If there is any patent or latent defect in the equipment, then operator can sue the supplier to the extent of 1500 crores.
Now the bone of contention lies in section 17(b): The uniqueness of this section is that for the first time in national or international law, supplier’s liability has been demarcated. Nowhere before, such liability came into being.

Stand of USA:
According to USA, the provision in this section is against its domestic and international conventions. These provisions are: Price-Anderson Act, 1957, Paris Convention-OECD, 1960 and Vienna Convention IAEA,1963.
All the above three contains a common provision which prescribes: Liability of Operator as Absolute or Liability is exclusively channelized to the operator.
These provisions are in direct conflict with Indian law and USA argue that with these conditions its firm will not come for business and it will harm the Indian nuclear commerce

Russian Stand:
• You cannot apply a law with retrospective effect.
• In the agreements of 1988 and 2005, specific exemptions were given
• The compensation to be paid by supplier is not structured
• If these reactors (3,4,5,6) are brought under the liability law then, Russian would go for cost-restructuring.

Indian Stand:

  • The international laws were made when developed countries already had such technological advancement and at that time the proliferation of nuclear trade was not like in contemporary times. No law is God’s law and old laws should be inclusive as per current scenario. Such laws are required taking into consideration the escalating trade among nations and domestic laws of developing nations should also be looked with equity at par with developed nations and international conventions.

  • For larger public good and inclusive development, it is required to have liability on both, operator and supplier.

  • Section 17(a) and (c) adheres to international commitments and section 17(b) is the need of current scenario.

  • Civil Nuclear Authorities advocates no dilution in this section and Supreme Court also advised to make it inclusive.

But the question is how?

What is the way ahead?

This tussle is adversely affecting India’s dire need of nuclear energy and nuclear commerce. India should restructure its policy to include maximum scope to provide thrust to nuclear negotiations. Some of these hurdles can be avoided by providing for contractual provisions by which the Indian operator provides timely feedback to the supplier in relation to the functioning of a component that doesn’t suffer from “Patent or Latent” defect.

Indigenization of technologies with ample support from funding may prove to be beneficial for India in longer run. Then, India has huge resource of Thorium, which is to be used in India’s third generation nuclear reactor to be completed by BARC. India needs to expedite its process of completion so as retain self sufficiency and less scope for dependency on international market.

Moreover India’s Fast Breeder Reactors are purely indigenous. FBR uses plutonium-239 as fuel and convert it into U-238 to be processed further. These reactors act as a connecting link in the nuclear reactor program of India. They consume the fuel produced in the first stage and produce fuel for themselves and then are capable of converting Th-232 into U-233 to be used as fuel for third stage.

This capability could prove an asset for India’s third generation nuclear program and would make it more self reliant in time to come.

Another staunch area is Nuclear Fusion based Reactors:

India is already a member in ITER program of EU. From India, Institute of Plasma Research, Ahmadabad and SAHA Institute of Nuclear Physics represent ITER. India should work actively for fusion based nuclear reactor as it would be the energy of future.

ITER is very important for this year mains as it was in news few months back. Two things need to be remembered.

First ITER and its principle and second, LASER based fusion. Please google it.

Some questions:

  1. What are the institutional set ups of Indian nuclear program? How far you agree with restructuring of the same?

  1. Critically examine the nuclear program of India.

  1. “After Fukushima disaster, there were numerous uproar against the nuclear reactor set up at Kudankulam”. What are the safeguard mechanisms incorporated to make nuclear reactors free of any disaster? Discuss in the backdrop of SC verdict.

  1. “The path of sustainable development focuses on nuclear fusion”. Critically comment

  2. Trace the development in the field of Nuclear Energy based on Fusion. What role Indian institutions play in this?

  1. Compare and contrast the nuclear tests of India.

  1.  “India’s nuclear policy points towards time and tested diplomacy”. Do you agree? Give your views

  1. “India’s nuclear energy development is governed by resource constraints”. Comment.

  1. Fast Breeder Reactors are acting as connecting links for India’s nuclear program. Elaborate

  1. “The tests of 74 and 98 led to different developments”. Comment