• Information Papers

Nuclear Power in India

(November 2007)

  • India has a flourishing and largely indigenous nuclear power program and plans to have 20,000 MWe nuclear capacity on line by 2020, subject to an opening of international trade. It aims to supply 25% of electricity from nuclear power by 2050.
  • Because India is outside the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty, due to its weapons program, it is largely excluded from trade in nuclear plant or materials, which has hampered its development of civil nuclear energy.
  • The nuclear weapons capability of India has arisen independently of its civil nuclear fuel cycle and uses indigenous uranium.
  • Because of its relative isolation in international trade and lack of indigenous uranium, India has uniquely been developing a nuclear fuel cycle to exploit its reserves of thorium.

Electricity demand in India has been increasing rapidly, and the 534 billion kilowatt hours produced in 2002 was almost double the 1990 output, though still representing only 505 kWh per capita for the year. In 2005 599 billion kWh was produced. The per capita figure is expected to almost triple by 2020, with 6.3% annual growth. Coal provides 69% of the electricity at present, but reserves are limited.

Nuclear power supplied 15.6 billion kWh (2.6%) of India's electricity in 2006 from 3.5 GWe (of 110 GWe total) capacity and this will increase steadily as new plants come on line. India's fuel situation, with shortage of fossil fuels, is driving the nuclear investment for electricity, and 25% nuclear contribution is foreseen by 2050, from one hundred times the 2002 capacity. Almost as much investment in the grid system as in power plants is necessary.

In 2006 almost US$ 9 billion was committed for power projects, including 9354 MWe of new generating capacity, taking forward projects to 43.6 GWe and US$ 51 billion.

A KPMG report in 2007 said that India needed to spend US$ 120-150 billion on power infrastructure over the next five years, including transmission and distribution. It said that distribution losses are currently some 30-40%, worth more than $6 billion per year.

The target since about 2004 has been for nuclear power is to provide 20,000 MWe by 2020, but in 2007 the prime Minister referred to this as "modest" and capable of being "doubled with the opening up of international cooperation." However, it is evident that on the basis of indigenous fuel supply only, the 20,000 MWe target is not attainable, or at least not sustainable without uranium imports.

Nuclear power industry development

Nuclear power for civil use is well established in India. Its civil nuclear strategy has been directed towards complete independence in the nuclear fuel cycle, necessary because it is excluded from the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) due to it acquiring nuclear weapons capability after 1970. (Those five countries doing so before 1970 were accorded the status of Nuclear Weapons States under the NPT.)

As a result, India's nuclear power program proceeds largely without fuel or technological assistance from other countries (but see later section). Its power reactors to the mid 1990s had some of the world's lowest capacity factors, reflecting the technical difficulties of the country's isolation, but rose impressively from 60% in 1995 to 85% in 2001-02.

India's nuclear energy self-sufficiency extends from uranium exploration and mining through fuel fabrication, heavy water production, reactor design and construction, to reprocessing and waste management. It has a small fast breeder reactor and is building a much larger one. It is also developing technology to utilise its abundant resources of thorium as a nuclear fuel.

The Atomic Energy Establishment was set up at Trombay, near Mumbai, in 1957 and renamed as Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC) ten years later. Plans for building the first Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) were finalised in 1964, and this prototype - Rawatbhata-1, which had Canada's Douglas Point reactor as a reference unit, was built as a collaborative venture between Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd and NPCIL. It started up in 1972 and was duplicated Subsequent indigenous PHWR development has been based on these units.

The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) is responsible for design, construction, commissioning and operation of thermal nuclear power plants.

It has 15 small and two mid-sized nuclear power reactors in commercial operation, six under construction - including two large ones and a fast breeder reactor, and more planned.

India's operating nuclear power reactors:

Reactor Type MWe net, each Commercial operation Safeguards status
Tarapur 1 & 2
BWR
150
1969
item-specific
Kaiga 1 & 2
PHWR
202
1999-2000
Kaiga 3
PHWR
202
2007
Kakrapar 1 & 2
PHWR
202
1993-95
by 2012 under new agreement
Kalpakkam 1 & 2 (MAPS)
PHWR
202
1984-86
Narora 1 & 2
PHWR
202
1991-92
by 2014 under new agreement
Rawatbhata 1
PHWR
90
1973
item-specific
Rawatbhata 2
PHWR
187
1981
item-specific
Rawatbhata 3 & 4
PHWR
202
1999-2000
by 2010 under new agreement
Tarapur 3 & 4
PHWR
490
2006, 05
Total (17)  
3779 MWe
   
Kalpakkam also known as Madras/MAPS
Rawatbhata also known as Rajasthan/RAPS
Kakrapar = KAPS, Narora = NAPS
dates are for start of commercial operation.

The two Tarapur 150 MWe Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs) built by GE on a turnkey contract before the advent of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty were originally 200 MWe. They were derated due to recurrent problems but have run well since. They have been using imported enriched uranium and are under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. However, late in 2004 Russia deferred to the Nuclear Suppliers' Group and declined to supply further uranium for them. They underwent six months refurbishment over 2005-06, and in March 2006 Russia agreed to resume fuel supply.

The two small Canadian (Candu) PHWRs at Rawatbhata started up in 1972 & 1980, and are also under safeguards. Rawatbhata-1 was down-rated early in its life and has operated very little since 2002 due to ongoing problems and has been shut down since 2004 as the government considers its future.

The 220 MWe PHWRs (202 MWe net) were indigenously designed and constructed by NPCIL, based on a Canadian design.

The Kalpakkam (MAPS) reactors were refurbished in 2002-03 and 2004-05 and their capacity restored to 220 MWe gross (from 170). Much of the core of each reactor was replaced, and the lifespans extended to 2033/36.

More recent reactor developments

The new series of 540 MWe (gross, 490 MWe net) nuclear reactors are developed indigenously from the 220 MWe (gross) model PHWR. The Tarapur 3&4 units were built by NPCIL.

The first - Tarapur 4 - started up in March 2005, was connected to the grid in June and started commercial operation in September. Tarapur-4's criticality came five years after pouring first concrete and seven months ahead of schedule. Its twin - unit 3 - was about a year behind it and criticality was achieved in May 2006, with grid connection in June and commercial operation in August, five months ahead of schedule.

Russia is supplying the country's first large nuclear power plant, comprising two VVER-1000 (V-392) reactors, under a Russian-financed US$ 3 billion contract. The AES-92 units are being built by NPCIL and will be commissioned and operated by it under IAEA safeguards. Russia will supply all the enriched fuel, though India will reprocess it and keep the plutonium. The first unit is due to be commissioned late in 2007 or early 2008, after some delay.

Under plans for the India-specific safeguards to be administered by the IAEA in relation to the civil-military separation plan, eight further reactors will be safeguarded (beyond Tarapur 1&2, Rawatbhata 1&2, and Kudankalam 1&2): Rawatbhata 3&4 by 2010, Rawatbhata 5&6 by 2008, Kakrapar 1&2 by 2012 and Narora 1&2 by 2014.

India's nuclear power reactors under construction:

Reactor Type MWe net, each Project control Commercial operation Safeguards status
Kaiga 4
PHWR
202 MWe
NPCIL
9/2007
Rawatbhata 5 & 6
PHWR
202 MWe
NPCIL
8/2007, 2/08
by 2008 under new agreement
Kudankulam 1 & 2
PWR (VVER)
950 MWe
NPCIL
12/2007, 12/08
item-specific
Kalpakkam PFBR
FBR
470 MWe
Bhavini
2010
unlikely
Total (6)  
2976 MWe
     
Rawatbhata also known as Rajasthan/RAPS
dates are for start of commercial operation.

Kaiga 3 started up in February, was connected to the grid in April and went into commercial operation in May 2007. Unit 4 was scheduled about six months behind it, but it and RAPP-5 will load fuel in late 2007.

A 500 MW prototype fast breeder reactor (FBR) is under construction at Kalpakkam by BHAVINI, a government enterprise set up to focus on FBRs. (See also Thorium cycle section below.)

In contrast to the situation in the 1990s, most reactors under construction are on schedule, and the first two - Tarapur 3 & 4 - were increased in capacity. These and future planned ones were 450 (now 490) MWe versions of the 202 MWe domestic products. Beyond them, future units will be nominal 700 MWe.

The Russian PWR types are apart from India's three-stage plan for nuclear power and are simply to increase generating capacity more rapidly. There are plans for eight 1000 MWe units at the Kudankulam site, and in January 2007 a memorandum of understanding was signed for Russia to build four more there, as well as others elsewhere in India, subject to Nuclear Suppliers' Group agreement.

Between 2010 and 2020, further construction is expected to take total gross capacity to 21,180 MWe. The nuclear capacity target is part of national energy policy. This planned increment includes those set out in the Table below including the initial 300 MWe Advanced Heavy Water Water Reactor (AHWR).

In 2005 four sites were approved for eight new reactors. Two of the sites - Kakrapar and Rawatbhata, are to have 700 MWe indigenous PHWR units, Kudankulam is to have imported 1000 MWe light water reactors alongside the two being built there by Russia, and the fourth site is greenfield for 1000 MWe LWR units - Jaitapur in the Konkan region. However, acquisition of any further light water reactors depends upon international political approvals.

In April 2007 the government gave approval for construction of the first four of these eight units.

Power reactors planned or firmly proposed

Reactor Type MWe net, each Project control Start operation
Kakrapar 3 & 4
PHWR
640
NPCIL
2012
Rawatbhata 7 & 8
PHWR
640
NPCIL
2012
Kudankulam 3 & 4
PWR - VVER
1000
NPCIL
 
Jaitapur 1 & 2
PWR
1000
NPCIL
 
?
PWR x 2
1000
NTPC
2014
?
PHWR x 4
640
NPCIL
 
?
FBR x 4
470
Bhavini
2020
?
AHWR
300
?
2020

For reactor table: first ten units 'planned', next 9 'proposed'.

NPCIL is reported to be evaluating a site for up to 6000 MWe of PWR nuclear capacity at Pati Sonapur in Orissa state. Major industrial developments are planned in that are and Orissa was the first Indian state to privatise electricity generation and transmission. State demand is expected to reach 20 billion kWh/yr by 2010.

NPCIL is also reported to be planning construction of a 1600 MWe plant in the northern state of Haryana, one of the country's most industrialized, by 2012. The state has a demand of 8900 MWe, but currently generates less than 2000 MWe and imports 4000 MWe. The $2.5 billion plant would be sited at the village of Kumaharia, near Fatehabad and paid for by the state government.

Apparently in anticipation of easing nuclear trade restriction, the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) brought forward consideration of a 2000 MWe nuclear power plant to be in operation by 2014. It would be the utility's first nuclear plant and also the first conventional nuclear plant not built by NPCIL. Both organizations are government-owned and NTPC is planning to increase its total installed capacity from 26 to 51 GWe by 2012 (72% of it coal).

Uranium resources

India's uranium resources are modest, with 54,000 tonnes U as reasonably assured resources and 23,500 tonnes as estimated additional resources in situ.

Mining and processing of uranium is carried out by Uranium Corporation of India Ltd, a subsidiary of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), at Jaduguda and Bhatin (since 1967), Narwapahar (since 1995) and Turamdih (since 2002) - all in Jharkhand near Calcutta. All are underground, the last two being modern. A common mill is located near Jaduguda, and processes 2090 tonnes per day of ore.

In 2005 and 2006 plans were announced to invest almost US$ 700 million to open further mines in Jharkand at Banduhurang, Bagjata and Mohuldih; in Meghalaya at Domiasiat-Mawthabah (with a mill) and in Andhra Pradesh at Lambapur-Peddagattu (with mill 50km away at Seripally), both in Nalgonda district.

In Jharkand, Banduhurang is India's first open cut mine and was commissioned in 2007. Bagjata is underground and due in production from 2008, though there had been earlier small operations 1986-91. The Mohuldih underground mine is expected to operate from 2010. A new mill at Turamdih in Jharkhand, with 3000 t/day capacity, was commissioned in 2007.

In Andhra Pradesh the Lambapur-Peddagattu project in Nalgonda district has environmental clearance for one open cut and three small underground mines but faces local opposition. In August 2007 the government approved a new US$ 270 million underground mine and mill at Tummalapalle near Pulivendula in Kadapa (Cuddapa) district, for commissioning in 2010.

In Meghalaya, close to the Bangladesh border, the Domiasiat-Mawthabah mine project (also called Nongbah-Jynrin) is in a high rainfall area and also faces longstanding local opposition, but environmental approval for this and the Nongstin mine in Meghalaya has been reported.

In August 2007 the government approved a new US$ 270 million mine and mill at Tummalapalle in Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh, for commissioning in 2010.

India's uranium mines and mills - existing and announced

State, district Mine Mill Operating from
Jharkhand
Jaduguda
Jaduguda
1967
 
Bhatin
Jaduguda
1967
 
Narwapahar
Jaduguda
1995
 
Turamdih
Turamdih
2002 (mine)
 
Banduhurang

2007
 
Bagjata
Bagjata
2008
 
Mohuldih

2010
Meghalaya
Mawthabah
Mawthabah
?
 
Nongstin
?
Andhra Pradesh, Nalgonda
Lambapur-Peddagattu
Seripally
?
Andhra Pradesh, Kadapa
Tummalapalle
Tummalapalle
2010

However, India has reserves of 290,000 tonnes of thorium - about one quarter of the world total, and these are intended to fuel its nuclear power program longer-term (see below).

Uranium fuel cycle

DAE's Nuclear Fuel Complex at Hyderabad undertakes refining and a conversion of uranium, which is received as magnesium diuranate (yellowcake) and refined. The main 400 t/yr plant fabricates PHWR fuel (which is unenriched). A small (25 t/yr) fabrication plant makes fuel for the Tarapur BWRs from imported enriched (2.66% U-235) uranium. Depleted uranium oxide fuel pellets (from reprocessed uranium) and thorium oxide pellets are also made for PHWR fuel bundles. Mixed carbide fuel for FBTR was first fabricated at BARC in 1979.

Heavy water is supplied by DAE's Heavy Water Board, and the seven plants are working at capacity due to the current building program.

Used fuel from the civil PHWRs is reprocessed by BARC at Trombay, Tarapur and Kalpakkam to extract reactor-grade plutonium for use in the fast breeder reactors. Small plants at each site were supplemented by a new Kalpakkam plant of some 100 t/yr commissioned in 1998, and this is being extended to reprocess FBTR carbide fuel. Apart from this all reprocessing uses the Purex process. Further capacity is being built at Tarapur and Kalpakkam, to come on line by about 2010.

In 2003 a facility was commissioned at Kalpakkam to reprocess mixed carbide fuel using an advanced Purex process. Future FBRs will also have these facilities co-located.

The PFBR and the next four FBRs to be commissioned by 2020 will use oxide fuel. After that it is expected that metal fuel with higher breeding capability will be introduced and burn-up is intended to increase from 100 to 200 GWd/t.

To close the FBR fuel cycle a fast reactor fuel cycle facility is planned, with construction to begin in 2008 and operation to coincide with the need to reprocess the first PFBR fuel.

Under plans for the India-specific safeguards to be administered by the IAEA in relation to the civil-military separation plan several fuel fabrication facilities will come under safeguards.

Thorium cycle development

The long-term goal of India's nuclear program is to develop an advanced heavy-water thorium cycle.This first employs the PHWRs fuelled by natural uranium, and light water reactors, to produce plutonium.

Stage 2 uses fast neutron reactors burning the plutonium to breed U-233 from thorium. The blanket around the core will have uranium as well as thorium, so that further plutonium (ideally high-fissile Pu) is produced as well as the U-233.

Then in stage 3, Advanced Heavy Water Reactors (AHWRs) burn the U-233 and this plutonium with thorium, getting about two thirds of their power from the thorium.

In 2002 the regulatory authority issued approval to start construction of a 500 MW prototype fast breeder reactor at Kalpakkam and this is now under construction by BHAVINI. The unit is expected to be operating in 2010, fuelled with uranium-plutonium oxide (the reactor-grade Pu being from its existing PHWRs). It will have a blanket with thorium and uranium to breed fissile U-233 and plutonium respectively. This will take India's ambitious thorium program to stage 2, and set the scene for eventual full utilisation of the country's abundant thorium to fuel reactors. Four more such fast reactors have been announced for construction by 2020.

Initial FBRs will be have mixed oxide fuel but these will be followed by metallic-fuelled ones to enable shorter doubling time.

Radioactive Waste Management

Radioactive wastes from the nuclear reactors and reprocessing plants are treated and stored at each site. Waste immobilisation plants are in operation at Tarapur and Trombay and another is being constructed at Kalpakkam. Research on final disposal of high-level and long-lived wastes in a geological repository is in progress at BARC.

Regulation and safety

The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was established in 1948 under the Atomic Energy Act as a policy body. Then in 1954 the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) was set up to encompass research, technology development and commercial reactor operation. The current Atomic Energy Act is 1962, and it permits only government-owned enterprises to be involved in nuclear power.

The DAE includes NPCIL, Uranium Corporation of India (mining and processing), Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (reactor control and instrumentation) and BHAVIN* (for setting up fast reactors). The government also controls the Heavy Water Board for production of heavy water and the Nuclear Fuel Complex for fuel and component manufacture.

* Bhartiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd

The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) was formed in 1983 and comes under the AEC but is independent of DAE. It is responsible for the regulation and licensing of all nuclear facilities, and their safety and carries authority conferred by the Atomic Energy Act for radiation safety and by the Factories Act for industrial safety in nuclear plants.

NPCIL is an active participant in the programmes of the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO).

Research & Development

An early AEC decision was to set up the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) at Trombay near Mumbai. A series of 'research' reactors and critical facilities was built here: APSARA (1 MW, 1956) was the first research reactor in Asia, Cirus (40 MW, 1960) and Dhruva (100 MW, 1985) followed it along with fuel cycle facilities. The Cirus and Dhruva units are assumed to be for military purposes, as is the plutonium plant commissioned in 1965.

BARC is also responsible for the transition to thorium-based systems and in particular is developing the 300 MWe AHWR as a technology demonstration project. This will be a vertical pressure tube design with heavy water moderator, boiling light water cooling with passive safety design and thorium-plutonium based fuel. A large critical facility to validate the reactor physics of the AHWR core was being commissioned at BARC in September 2007.

A series of three Purnima research reactors have explored the thorium cycle, the first (1971) running on plutonium fuel fabricated at BARC, the second and third (1984 & 1990) on U-233 fuel made from thorium - U-233 having been first separated in 1970.

In 1998 a 500 keV accelerator was commissioned at BARC for research on accelerator-driven subcritical systems as an option for stage three of the thorium cycle.

There are plans for a new 30 MWt multi-purpose research reactor for radioisotope production, testing nuclear fuel and reactor materials, and basic research. It is to be capable of conversion to an accelerator-driven system later.

Two civil research reactors at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research at Kalpakkam are preparing for stage two of the thorium cycle. The 40 MWt fast breeder test reactor (FBTR) has been operating since 1985, and has achieved 120,000 MWday/tonne burnup with its carbide fuel (70% PuC + 30% UC). In 2005 the FBTR fuel cycle was closed, with the reprocessing of 100 GWd/t fuel - claimed as a world first. This has been made into new mixed carbide fuel for FBTR. FBTR is based on the French Rapsodie FBR design. Also the tiny Kamini (Kalpakkam mini) reactor is exploring the use of thorium as nuclear fuel, by breeding fissile U-233. BHAVINI is located here and draws upon the centre's expertise and that of NPCIL in establishing the fast reactor program.

As part of developing higher-burnup fuel for PHWRs mixed oxide (MOX) fuel is being used experimentally in FBTR, which is now operating with a hybrid core of mixed carbide and mixed oxide fuel (the high-Pu MOX forming 20% of the core).

A Compact High-Temperature Reactor (CHTR) is being designed to have long (15 year) core life and employ liquid metal (Pb-Bi) coolant. There are also designs for HTRs up to 600 MWt for hydrogen production and a 5 MWt multi-purpose nuclear power pack.

The Board of Radiation & Isotope Technology was separated from BARC in 1989 and is responsible for radioisotope production. The research reactors APSARA, CIRUS and Dhruva are used, along with RAPS for cobalt-60.

Non-proliferation, US-India agreement and Nuclear Suppliers' Group

India's nuclear industry is largely without IAEA safeguards, though four nuclear power plants (see above) are under facility-specific arrangements related to India's INFCIRC/66 safeguards agreement with IAEA. The lack of full-scope IAEA safeguards however means that India is isolated from world trade by the Nuclear Suppliers' Group.

However, India has been scrupulous in ensuring that its weapons material and technology are guarded against commercial or illicit export to other countries.

Following the 2005 agreement between US and Indian heads of state on nuclear energy cooperation, the UK indicated its strong support for greater cooperation and France then Canada then moved in the same direction. The US Department of Commerce, the UK and Canada have relaxed controls on export of technology to India, though staying within the Nuclear Suppliers Group guidelines. The French government says it will seek a nuclear cooperation agreement, and Canada has agreed to "pursue further opportunities for the development of the peaceful uses of atomic energy" with India.

In December 2006 the US Congress passed legislation to enable nuclear trade with India, after reconciling earlier House and Senate versions of it. Then in July 2007 a nuclear cooperation agreement with India was finalized, opening the way for India's participation in international commerce in nuclear fuel and equipment. The final wording is under consideration by India's parliament, which will need to put most of the country's nuclear power reactors under IAEA safeguards. The USA called it "the symbolic centerpiece of our new global strategic partnership with India". It would allow India to reprocess US-origin and other foreign-sourced nuclear fuel at a new national plant under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. This would be fuel which has been used in those 14 reactors designated as unambiguously civilian and under full IAEA safeguards.

The IAEA greeted the deal as being "a creative break with the past" - where India was excluded from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The agreement still has to gain international acceptance by the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group and India must set up a new and comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA, plus an Additional Protocol. A bilateral trade agreement will then go to US Congress for final approval. The ultimate objective is to put India on the same footing as China in respect to responsibilities and trade opportunities.

BACKGROUND TO NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION ISSUES

India (along with Pakistan and Israel) was originally a 'threshold' country in terms of the international non-proliferation regime, possessing, or quickly capable of assembling one or more nuclear weapons: Their nuclear weapons capability at the technological level was recognised (all have research reactors at least) along with their military ambitions, and all remained outside the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which 186 nations have now signed. This led to their being largely excluded from trade in nuclear plant or materials, except for safety-related devices for a few safeguarded facilities.

India is opposed to the NPT as it now stands, and has consistently attacked the Treaty since its inception in 1970.

Regional rivalry

Relations between India and Pakistan are tense and hostile, and the risks of nuclear conflict between them have long been considered quite high.

In 1974 India exploded a "peaceful" nuclear device and then in May 1998 India and Pakistan each exploded several nuclear devices underground. This heightened concerns regarding an arms race between them.

Kashmir is a prime cause of bilateral tension, its sovereignty has been in dispute since 1948. There is persistent low level military conflict due to Pakistan backing a Muslim rebellion there.

Both countries engaged in a conventional arms race in the 1980s, including sophisticated technology and equipment capable of delivering nuclear weapons. In the 1990s the arms race quickened. In 1994 India reversed a four-year trend of reduced allocations for defence, and despite its much smaller economy, Pakistan pushed its own expenditures yet higher. Both have lost their patrons: India, the former USSR; and Pakistan, the USA.

In 1997 India deployed a medium-range missile and is now developing a long-range missile capable of reaching targets in China's industrial heartland.

In 1995 the USA quietly intervened to head off a proposed nuclear test. The 1998 tests were unambiguously military, including one claimed to be of a sophisticated thermonuclear device. Their declared purpose was "to help in the design of nuclear weapons of different yields and different delivery systems".

It is the growth and modernisation of China's nuclear arsenal and its assistance with Pakistan's nuclear power program and, reportedly, with missile technology, which now exacerbates Indian concerns. In particular, China's People's Liberation Army operates somewhat autonomously within Pakistan as an exporter of military material.

Indian security policies are driven by:

  • its desire to be recognised as the dominant power in the region;
  • its increasing concern with China's expanding nuclear weapons and missile delivery programs; and
  • its deep concern about Pakistan, with its nuclear weapons capability and now the clear capability to deliver such weapons deep into India.

It perceives nuclear weapons as a cost-effective political counter to China's nuclear and conventional weaponry, and the effects of its nuclear weapons policy in provoking Pakistan is, by some accounts, considered incidental.

India has had an unhappy relationship with China. Soundly defeated by China in the 1962 war, relations were frozen until 1998. Since then a degree of high-level contact has been established and a few elementary confidence-building measures put in place. China still occupies some Indian territory. Its nuclear and missile support for Pakistan is however a major bone of contention.

India's weapons material appears to come from the Canadian-designed 40 MWt Cirus "research" reactor which started up in 1960 (well before the NPT), and the 100 MWt Dhruva indigenous unit in operation since 1985, using local uranium. It is estimated that India may have built up enough weapons-grade plutonium for one hundred nuclear warheads.

Nuclear arms control in the region

The public stance of India and Pakistan on non-proliferation differs markedly.

Pakistan has initiated a series of regional security proposals. It has repeatedly proposed a nuclear-free zone in South Asia and has proclaimed its willingness to engage in nuclear disarmament and to sign the NPT if India would do so. This would involve disarming and joining as non-weapon states. It has endorsed a US proposal for a regional five power conference to consider non-proliferation in South Asia.

India has taken the view that solutions to regional security issues should be found at the international rather than the regional level, since its chief concern is with China. It therefore rejects Pakistan's proposals.

Instead, the 'Gandhi Plan', put forward in 1988, proposed the revision of the NPT, which it regards correctly as inherently discriminatory in favour of the nuclear-weapon States, and a timetable for complete nuclear weapons disarmament. It endorsed early proposals for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and for an international convention to ban the production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons purposes, known as the 'cut-off' convention.

The USA has, for some years pursued a variety of initiatives to persuade India and Pakistan to abandon their nuclear weapons programs and to accept comprehensive international safeguards on all their nuclear activities. To this end the Clinton administration proposed a conference of nine states, comprising the five established nuclear-weapon states, along with Japan, Germany, India and Pakistan.

This and previous similar proposals have been rejected by India, which countered with demands that other potential weapons states, such as Iran and North Korea, should be invited, and that regional limitations would only be acceptable if they were accepted equally by China. The USA would not accept the participation of Iran and North Korea and such initiatives lapsed.

Another, more recent approach, centres on the concept of containment, designed to 'cap' the production of fissile material for weapons purposes, which would hopefully be followed by 'roll back'. To this end India and the USA jointly sponsored a UN General Assembly resolution in 1993 calling for negotiations for a 'cut-off' convention, the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT). Should India and Pakistan join such a convention, they would have to agree to halt the production of fissile materials for weapons and to accept international verification on their relevant nuclear facilities (enrichment and reprocessing). In short, their weapons programs would be thus 'capped'. It appeared that India was prepared to join negotiations regarding such a FMCT under the 1995 UN Conference on Disarmament (UNCD).

However, despite the widespread international support for a FMCT, formal negotiations on cut-off have not yet begun. The UNCD can only approve decisions by consensus and since the summer of 1995, the insistence of a few states to link FMCT negotiations to other nuclear disarmament issues has brought progress on the cut-off treaty there to a standstill.

Bilateral confidence-building measures between India and Pakistan to reduce the prospects of confrontation have been limited. In 1990 each side ratified a treaty not to attack the other's nuclear installations, and at the end of 1991 they provided one another with a list showing the location of all their nuclear plants, even though the respective lists were regarded as not being wholly accurate. Early in 1994 India proposed a bilateral agreement for a 'no first use' of nuclear weapons and an extension of the 'no attack' treaty to cover civilian and industrial targets as well as nuclear installations.

Having promoted the CTBT since 1954, India dropped its support in 1995 and in 1996 attempted to block the Treaty. Following the 1998 tests the question has been reopened and both Pakistan and India have indicated their intention to sign the CTBT. Indian ratification may be conditional upon the five weapons states agreeing to specific reductions in nuclear arsenals.

See also: Nuclear Power in Pakistan

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