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'Canada may indirectly help India make N-arms'

July 21, 2010 19:02 IST

Some experts in North America are concerned that the Canada-India civilian nuclear deal could have history repeating itself: Canada could unwittingly become part of the increasing nuclear tension between India and Pakistan.

Dr M V Ramana, researcher in environmental and development studies, Princeton University, believes India will use the uranium that it will import from Canada and elsewhere strictly in civilian nuclear reactors for power generation, but it may divert a large portion of its domestic supply of uranium towards making weapons.

"The strategic implication of the Canada-India civilian nuclear deal is that there's already an arms race in South Asia; this deal is likely to magnify the race," he said.

"India's plutonium production is an area of concern. India has been doing it for 30 years at the cost of its economy," he added.

Ramana pointed out that India had not made any statement committing that it would not divert its domestic uranium for making weapons. And the country, he believes, is in a position to increase its domestic supply of uranium, as there is a sizeable quantity of deposits in the Jharkhand region.

"India now has a stockpile of 500 to 700 kg of (weapons grade) plutonium (which is made from uranium). With this, India can make 140 war heads," he said.

"Pakistan has minimal quantity of plutonium to be able to make 20 warheads. But it has 2 tons of highly-enriched uranium with which it can make 80 Hiroshima- type nuclear war heads," he said.

Ramana expressed his opinion about India's civilian nuclear initiatives in a paper published in a Center for International Governance Innovation journal.

"Despite media hype and continued government patronage, nuclear power is unlikely to contribute significantly to electricity generation in India for several decades," Ramana wrote. 

"Apart from the high cost of the power it produces, one important factor that will reduce the potential contribution of nuclear power even further is the reliance on breeder reactors, a technology shown to be unreliable in most countries. Unless foreign countries offer cheap loans for purchasing imported reactors, India is unlikely to be able to afford them. Such financing is unlikely to be able to be a viable means for large-scale expansion of nuclear power in India," he wrote.

"I am not branding India as good or bad, or any country for that matter," he told India Abroad. "I am merely pointing out that India is continuing to build weapons and as long as it continues to do that, other countries, including Canada, by supplying uranium are indirectly helping in the process," he added.

Ajit Jain