The global nuclear industry is poised to reap a windfall since the United States Congress approved a nuclear deal with India in October. The deal ends a decades long moratorium on trade of nuclear materials with India, imposed following a 1974 nuclear weapons test.
India is seeking to build 30-40 new reactors. Bloomberg.com reported that India will spend $175 billion over the next 30 years on nuclear technology. US electronics firm Westinghouse is preparing to invest tens of millions of dollars in a public-private partnership with Indian firm Larsen & Toubro. General Electric was part of a US delegation that visited India last week in an effort to cut through legal red tape.
It isn’t just the US that will benefit. Russia and France already have deals in place, and now Canada and the UK are also clamouring for a share. Canadian trade minister Stockwell Day also visited India this week, accompanying a delegation of executives from three of Canada’s largest nuclear companies. One of those companies, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., is a crown corporation.
Nuclear energy has the potential to offset India’s increasing greenhouse gas emissions from its growing economy. However, details of the deal affirm a troubling status quo. Countries outside of the original five (Russia, the US, the UK, France and China) are supposed to agree to nuclear disarmament before they receive foreign aid or trade for their nuclear power programs. This deal does not force India to disarm or open up its nuclear weapons facilities to inspections from the International Atomic Energy Agency. The big five is essentially now six.
Some experts believe this could gut the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or increase tensions between India and Pakistan. Pakistan and North Korea could lose any incentive they had to sign on to the treaty. This is unfortunate because it has stymied proliferation in the past, such as playing a role in ending the weapons programs in Libya and South Africa. The new relationship with India certainly weakens the case against nuclear Iran, which is still claiming to be developing nuclear technology for civilian purposes. Louis Werner ventured onto the slippery slope today with a column that argues that a nuclear armed Iran could be a force for peace. He can’t be the only one to recognize that “sinning against the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty can be forgiven fairly quickly”.
It’s a shame that big nuclear and the international community have decided to treat India like the Klondike. This deal looks especially appealing during an economic downturn coupled with the global warming crisis. However, the opportunities lost now in restricting nuclear arms could prove to be a lot more expensive in the long run.