Monday, May 08, 2006

What I CANDU - You CANDU Too...

I doubt the Canadians at AECL would understand the title of this post.

A friend emailed me this piece by Leonard Spector. In this piece Leonard Spector argues,

At a time when the international community is focused on the potential for misuse of civilian nuclear technology in the case of Iran, India has now broadcast to the world that CANDU reactors are an outstanding example of "peaceful" technology that can be appropriated most conveniently for producing nuclear weapons. What a bitter endorsement for Canada.

Furthermore he says,

Certainly, under the circumstances, no Canadian government could propose new CANDU sales to India. And what country concerned about the appearance of its nuclear power program will want to incorporate the CANDU, with its new seal of approval from the Indian nuclear weapons establishment?

My dear Leonard, this is blithering nonsense -

Firstly, the Canadians cut supplies to India claiming that the Indians used the CANDU to make" a nuclear bomb". This was in 1974, now exactly which idiots have gone around believing that the CANDU is proliferation proof after that? - Can you name a few?

Secondly why would India want to import a CANDU when we can build them ourselves?

And thirdly, the Indo-US nuclear deal will kill the NPT, after that happens per your Non-Proliferation doomsday prophets nations the world over will queue up to buy nuclear weapons related technology. In that scenario India's open declaration of the "military status" of its INDU reactors (err.. in your language they are called "CANDU-Clones") should effectively advertize the value of the CANDU to nations seeking to participate in this nuclear gold rush. Do you seriously believe that the Canadians are not going to sell CANDUs to people that might want to make bombs from them? They've known about the potential for weapons related use for years, did they care then? hell no... why would they care now?

The only reason the Canadians care is that India will be able to compete for the same markets the Canadians want to access and unlike Canada - the Indians will make stuff cheaply.

Unfortunately for so many the laws of nature are not proprietary, neither for that matter are the principles of physics. The products of engineering development are proprietary but not in perpetuity.

You see the whole idea of respecting another's property rests on a more fundamental regime of respecting each other. When you don't respect the other person, why will the other person respect you?

When Canada cut supplies to India's civilian nuclear program in 1974, they did so with the express intention of killing the Indian nuclear program. So while the Indians toiled night and day to build and improve the reactors, the Canadians sat pretty on their huge reserves of Natural Uranium and carried out a few minor alterations to the design. For the most part development of the CANDU PHWR slowed to snail's pace in Canada. I guess the Canadians thought there would be no competition - they probably assumed that the Indians were idiots who would never make something as complex as a CANDU.

Reality has become as a terrible bite in AECL's ass. The extent of indigenization of the INDU reactors and several advanced features they contain probably make the Canadians feel nervous. It would royally suck for Canada to have to become an importer of CANDU spares from India some day. I mean what if the Indians suddenly decide to cut the supply of spares? What will the Canadians do then? buy cheap knockoffs from Pakistan? or perhaps they could buy stuff from China? Is such a future too far off?

A Canadian friend of mine was lecturing me on the futility of the battle on Siachen. I listened quietly because to hear a Canadian talk about us wasting time over a useless chunk of ice... is well.. simply too amusing to pass up. I recall Canada's rich history of trading up the Avro Arrow for that piece-of-garbage called the BOMARC and expect that they will shortly do the same.

No my dear Canadian friends, I am not deaf, I am simply ignoring you. You really should not have cut supplies in 1974 - that was a seriously bad choice.

And what is the worst you can do? you already dropped the ball on the Kanishka trial.


At 10:40 AM, Blogger Nitin said...

Fancy the Canadians lecturing you on Siachen, while they are fighting over Hans Island and the Northwest passage in the frozen Arctic. The Canadians are at loggerheads with the Danes over Hans Island, and with the Americans over soveriegnty over the Artic regions. The Canadians have sent in their navy. Siachen of the Artic?

As for the CANDU business, what's the fuss about? If the CANDU's are a proliferation risk, then they are a proliferation risk even without the Indian seal of approval. Spector and team underestimate human ingenuity and resourcefulness.

Btw, peaceful nuclear explosions (PNEs) may sound dubious today, but up to the 60s, PNEs were seriously contemplated as options for blasting rocks, major construction projects etc.

At 1:47 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Nitin,

PNEs were the subject of several conferences in late 60s - conferences which were open to us and anyone else the wind blew in.

Yet somehow when we actually went ahead and conducted a PNE, we were treated like crap.

The most amusing part is that people even in India continue to believe that the PNE was an actual weapon. Over two dozen high-ranking officials testified in parliament in various capacities and said the same thing - 1974 was a PNE - not a weapon and yet people keep insisting otherwise - even Indians.

At 12:05 PM, Blogger Nitin said...

I guess Indians in general wanted to believe that it was not a PNE.

At 10:50 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Nitin,

That is very true. The bulk of India views the acquisition of advanced weapons as a very empowering thought. Few even consider the cost of a nuclear arsenal.

At 3:58 AM, Blogger Dadoji said...

I am honestly looking forward to the day Canada wishes to purchase spares from Indian companies. The amount of money they stand to save is just fantastic. Not to mention the +ve effect on capabilities of the said companies.

At 8:09 AM, Blogger maverick said...


The Canadians would do well to outsource their manufacturing to us. It costs far less to run a manufacturing plant in India than it does to run one Canada.

Very simply put you don't have to heat a cavernous shop floor so that your workers don't freeze to death.

Also geographically speaking - it is much easier to ship a reactor vessel from India to many places in world than it is to ship it from Canada to anywhere.

I am cool with it if the Canadians want to manufacture the large size parts (reactor vessels, endcaps etc...) in Canada esp. if those are intended for the US market. But all the smaller parts we can take the manufacturing responsibility.

I predict we will see a major rise in the number of INDU/CANDU clones in the world. The Canadians will gain quite a bit if they team up with us.

The Canadians are decent people. The only problem is that some of their policy making types are rigid adherents of the NP religious cult. If these people are ignored, Canada will stand to make some real money.

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