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Home > News > Report

'N-deal will not affect India's nuclear arsenal'

June 22, 2006 12:09 IST

The Indo-US nuclear cooperation agreement will in no way affect the India's ability to upgrade its uranium mines and milling facilities, Dr Ashley J Tellis of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace pointed out on Wednesday.

Dr Tellis points out that critics of the nuclear agreement wrongly assume that New Delhi is in fact seeking the largest nuclear weapons inventory that its capacity and resources permit, and that India's desire of a larger nuclear arsenal has been stymied thus far by a shortage of natural uranium.

In a forthcoming study, Atoms for War? Indo-US civilian nuclear co-operation and India's nuclear arsenal, Tellis, one of the architects of the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, says India is currently separating far less weapons grade plutonium annually than it has the capability to produce.

"The evidence, which suggests that the Indian government is in no hurry to build the biggest nuclear stockpile it could construct based on material factors alone, undermines the assumption that India wishes to build the biggest nuclear arsenal it possibly can," he said.

The report concludes that India already has the indigenous reserves of natural uranium necessary to develop the largest possible nuclear arsenal it may desire and, consequently, the Indo-US civilian nuclear cooperation initiative will not 'materially' contribute towards New Delhi's strategic capacities in any way.

The current shortage of natural uranium in India caused by constrictions in its mining and milling capacity is a transient problem that is in the process of being redressed. The report says that the shortage of uranium fuel is a near-term aberration, and not an enduring limitation resulting from the dearth of physical resources.

As such, the short-term shortage does not offer a viable basis either for Congress to extort any concessions from India with regards to its weapons program or for supporting the petty canard that imported natural uranium will lead to a substantial increase in the size of India's nuclear weapons program.

The report, which will be released on June 26, concludes that India is currently separating about 24 - 40 kg of weapons-grade plutonium annually, far less than the capability to produce.

'This evidence, which suggests that the Indian government is in no hurry to build the biggest nuclear stockpile it could construct based on material factors alone, undermines the critics' doubts about India's intentions.'

'India's capacity to produce a huge nuclear arsenal is not affected by prospective Indo-US civilian nuclear cooperation. India is widely acknowledged to possess reserves of 78,000 metric tons of uranium (MTU).'  

'The Carnegie study concludes that the total inventory of natural uranium required to sustain all the reactors associated with the current power program, both operational and those under construction and the weapons program over the entire national lifetime of these plants runs into some 14,640-14,790 MTU or in other words, requirements that are well within even the most conservative valuations of India's reasonably assured uranium reserves. '

Meanwhile, former Defence Secretary William Cohen has urged the US Congress to endorse the Indo-US nuclear deal.

'Indian assets of uranium alone could continue India's program for more than 60 years, and it has reasonable prospects for even more. India has all the natural uranium it needs to produce as many nuclear weapons as it wishes plus an enhanced version of its present nuclear power for the foreseeable future,' Cohen was quoted as saying in Washington Times

'The truth is India, in considering its strategic interest, will act in a manner consistent with its national security, with or without this agreement. It is unlikely to agree to limit its fissile material production unilaterally,' Cohen said, adding, "For a safer world, Congress should act now."


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