Monday, February 20, 2006

Energy Realities and Nuclear Choices

Few people that cruise the net (even in India) have probably read Document 10.

Lacking any film stars and/or mirch masala I doubt anyone will ever read this webpage.. Which is sad...

This unassuming article lists what I call the four horsemen of the Apocalypse:

- economic stagnation driven by high energy costs,
- rising greenhouse emissions due to reliance on coal,
- resource overutilization due to high populations subsisting of a small piece of land and
- chronic technological deficiency hampering social stability

What is the Apocalypse you ask? - to me - the Apocalypse is when the political contract that governed the land has completely failed and the vast majority of the citizens do not feel constrained by the limitations of social order. It is both anarchy and chaos all manifest in one giant rush. The Apocalypse is a state of unmanaged conflict that rapidly depletes all resources in society in a completely uncontrolled way.

Is India in 2006 merely a redux of Japan in 1937? Where a booming economy is outstripping energy resources?

The generation of the 80s and 90s learnt one and only one rule - growth was not an option - it was a necessity. The generation of year 2000 grew up in prosperity and did not see the hard fought battles of the decades gone by. Not for them the scenes of Indian soldiers bleeding to death in the streets of Jaffna... And not for them the panic in the Ministry of Petroleum when Saddam attacked Kuwait without warning. Memories faded... And with it wisdom.

Where will the energy come from and what will the cost to the environment?

Does it make sense for India to be wedded to a once-through open fuel cycle?

What made Homi Jehangir Bhabha, K. S. Krishnan and S. S. Bhatnagar feel otherwise?

Our three stage closed fuel cycle with its reliance on our abundant Thorium reserves is termed a proliferation risk. But what idiot would want to use up valuable fuels to make an enormous stockpile of weapons?

It is one thing for an oil rich US to consider investing billions into the construction of a 10,000 weapon arsenal - but will a poor India make the same choice?

Who in their right mind will choose to make weapons out of U-233 when they have more than enough Pu-239 for anything they need?

There is one enduring point that the naysayers must accept: the nuclear deal signals the end of the NPT and everything it stands for. It symbolizes end of a global nuclear apartheid and the beginning of the next phase of globalization.


At 3:57 PM, Blogger interestedonlooker said...


The Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement is being touted as a way to stabilize oil and gas prices by reducing India's import of these quantities.

Will this really materialize? I quote some numbers I got off a discussion forum:

- Indian consumption of natural gas for electricity generation was only 0.45% of the world's consumption of natural gas for the same purpose in 2004.

- Light diesel oil (the type used in generator sets) consumption in India is only 2.7% of that of high speed diesel (the type used in transportation).

- The Indian Railways uses about 60% of the around 50 million tons of diesel consumed in India per year. At a conversion rate of 40%, that would amount to nearly 125 million tons of crude oil equivalent. (see

This is still only 3% of the world's consumption of oil, of which a maximum of 60% (or 0.18% of the world crude consumption) can be saved by electrifying all of the railway routes from power plants using nuclear fuel.

For primary data, see Tables 4,5 and 12 of

None of these numbers seem large enough to reduce prices.

I am tempted to believe that the nuclear deal is an act of good faith by the US towards India. The question is - what has India offered in return?

Also, given that our oil imports aren't going to decrease any time soon - since we need them for road transportation and industrial use in petrochemicals, fertilizers etc., how is the US going to perceive our continued interest in natural gas from Iran?

At 8:06 AM, Blogger maverick said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 8:26 AM, Blogger maverick said...


I think you have stumbled onto something pretty interesting. It appears as though currently India does not need ONG for energy and so the nuclear deal should not really affect India's needs in this region.

In fact the near-term should see the Indian dependence on ONG increase due to demands from the chemicals sector (POL/polymers etc). I feel that this increase in demand could be accomodated from IPI.

The long term however I fear is much more disturbing. At the present rate of growth India will have to make up the any shortfall in energy generation from coal fired plants with dependence on ONG sources. We are rapidly approaching limits on how much coal we can transport and this will provoke people to look at ONG sources.

In the event we have no growth in the nuclear sector, I anticipate that we will be heavily reliant on ONG imports for energy generation.

I sense that the American opposition to IPI is not really from the oh-so-fashionable "distaste for Iran" that every non-proliferation mullah mouths off. I think the American disapproval of IPI pipelines stems from being left out of the deal. The Americans are keen on pushing their liquified natural gas carriers down out throats and they appear to be quite willing to jack up the harrassment to an IPI pipeline by playing the field in Pakistan.

I anticipate that if India agrees to allow US participation in key down-stream NG related sectors, then American opposition to the IPI where it matters - such in the NSC will ebb.

Pressure on India's relationship with Iran will remain in the public arena from State Department and NP theologians sources because these people are addicted to India bashing and this is their pacifier.

I can't imagine what function the NP theologians and the State Department moralists serve. I can't imagine that any American president or political functionary derives any semblance of high character from the kind of garbage that these theologians and moralists talks. I would go so far as to say that these so called academics and "non-profit" ideologues do more to undermine the President's image abroad than anything the USIC's black ops people could manage. Atleast the Black Ops people have a credible excuse for what they do and moreover they have deniability - these non proliferation theologians and state department moralists don't even have that.

At 9:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

an IPI pipeline?

I think that remains a pipedream whilst the Pakis cannot even protect their local gas pipelines!

India should disregard US sanctions on Iran and help Iran develop its petroleum industry.

When the Iranians are prosperous the mullahs reign will pall!


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