Thursday, June 29, 2006

To sum it all up - where are we going with the Indo-US nuclear deal

The inability of people in the US to make cheap enriched Uranium (without the indirect government subsidy) or to make cheap (and safe) MOX fuel rods on an industrial scale - represents the biggest bottleneck in the future of nuclear energy in the United States. Removing this bottleneck is the key to improving the investment climate for nuclear energy in the US. If DCS suceeds in producing low cost fuel rods - we will see the biggest thing in American industry since the invention of the Ford Model-T.

The NPA are slowly going to abandon the sinking ship that the ONG guys are on and jump over to the side of the US nuclear industry.

Right now the US nuclear industry is going to need investment. It is going to have to project a rosy future to attract that investment - otherwise the transition out of dependence on ONG will be very very difficult. In order to maintain a positive investment climate - it is very helpful if you can pretend for the gullible US investor that you are going to sell 125 nuclear reactors to India and possibly even 700 reactors to China. Does that make sense to you? - do you get my drift?

I expect that the NP Ayatollahs will soon change their tune on MOX fuels. They will do everything in their power to enhance the attractiveness of the US nuclear fuels industry to investors. To that end - they will conduct a ruthless psywar campaign against other countries that attempt to develop competing fuel solutions. We in India have for the past fifty years investigated U-233/Th, P-241/Th and U-238/Pu-241 MOX assemblies for use in our (INDU) PHWR reactors . These are very different from the U-235/Pu-239 assemblies the Americans are planning to use in their BWR or LWR or PWR designs. We can't really use their technology in our reactors.

In my opinion the NPA will soon unleash a psywar aimed at India's thorium exploitation scheme. By running down India's attempt at Thorium utilization the NPA will hope to enhance interest in India towards US style light water nuclear reactors. Any apparent interest in these systems will most likely be used by unseen hands in the US to generate investment in the US nuclear industry.

We in India can look forward to more abuses from the NPA - because if they dont abuse us - then we will look better than they are. Yes - that is correct - a third world country with 250 million poor people is going look better than the US - because the third world country has technology which appears superior to the US. You know - just like Pakistan's Pak-2 centrifuges are far superior (in terms of energy consumption) to any Uranium enrichment the US has right now.

There may however be a silver lining to this cloud after. It may be that the US nuclear fuels industry will have to outsource production of certain things to reduce operating costs. This should be a market that India aims to exploit. India will be more than happy to meet these outsourcing requirements.

In the spirit of equal equal - I think the Americans should send all Uranium enrichment technology related outsourcing to Pakistan - to Abdul Qadeer Khan labs - where I hear they make a centrifuge that is superior to anything the Americans have right now.

So - where does that leave the nuclear deal?

It leaves it dead in the water. The re-wording of the deal in Congress is the kiss of death for the deal on the Indian side. The deal is unlikely to be well recieved in India even if the US congress approves it. It is very difficult to imagine anyone in India will want to have anything to do with an American supplied reactor after the way in which the HIRC reworded the deal.


At 2:50 PM, Blogger Kirk Sorensen said...

There's a much easier way to turn thorium into electricity that the solid-fueled approaches currently favored in India: liquid-fluoride reactors. The US developed the technology in the 50s and 60s, but then politics killed it in favor of the fast breeder. It would be a much easier way to make energy from thorium than the alternatives.

At 9:46 PM, Anonymous bhatta said...

There is a very interesting reaction from the BJP in New Delhi today. They have said that they would not continue to honor it if they come to power. I think this supports your conclusion.

At 8:09 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Kirk Sorensen,

I am only recently becoming familiar with the Thorium utilization issues. My background is in other things.

From what I understand - there are two main constraints affecting the choice of fuel. The first constraint is the temperature of rod v/s the vapor pressure of the materials used in the rod. I think they want to avoid having the rod be hot enough to cause significant vaporization. The second issue relates to what can actually be used in the existing reactor assemblies and fabricated with ease.

The impression I have is that the US designs are driven by a desire to extract the most amount of energy from a given fuel in one single push. Not much thought is given to the spent fuel issue or to the amount of material that is used up. By contrast the Indian approach has always relied on using available technology and minimizing fuel consumption and wastes.

I will have read more about the specifics of the liquid flouride approach but I do know that we in India put quite a bit of thought into this. Though I stress I was not kept informed of the details, I was led to believe that choice of a solid mixture most likely reflected a number of constraints that perhaps were not considered elsewhere.

I wish I could discuss this with greater understanding of the underlying issues. Perhaps that is the direction that my reading should proceed in. A lot of stuff is now possible that wasn't possible in the 50s due to improved control insturmentation.


IMO the deal is dead.

The attempted rewrite by Congress will not be well recieved in India. When we signed the July 18th Agreement we assumed that President Bush was speaking for all Americans. The congressional rewrite suggests that this is not the case. At the very least - some Americans powerful enough in Congress would like to renegotiate the deal. So we are back to square one - we have to renegotiate the deal.

We are not like China - our politicians have to answer to the electorate and to their peers. The kind of stuff that was done with China cannot be done with India and Congress really should have taken that into consideration. Whatever lobbying was done - was clearly not sufficient to communicate this. It appears everyone was too preoccupied with appeasing the NPA.

The realization needs to dawn on people that these NPA are no good. Listen to them and you will never make a dime. If you pay attention to all their paranoid control fantasies - like their counterparts in Islamic nations - they will make you run the US economy into the ground. These NPAs are perfectly happy letting the world fill up with carbon dioxide, or even happier to let China and Pakistan proliferate - while they sit and mentally masturbate to their favorite norm based treaty.

At 11:39 AM, Blogger Kirk Sorensen said...


I found some documents recently that seem to indicate that Indian nuclear scientists were interested in liquid-fluoride reactors. What do you think of these?

At 7:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too for once had changed my mind about this Indo-US nuclear deal.But my gut feelings has come true.Sometimes against my own will wanted to believe the blossomings of the Indo-US friendship.Come what may happen the team of M.K.Narayanan,J.N.Dixit,Ronen Sen,Shyam Saran are simple brilliant.
They rightly calculated the rejection of the deal by the US congress.Bush has been proved as before that he is a berd.Anyway the rewording of the deal may lead to
1) The deal may go through the US congress, but since it does not relfect the joint statement of July/18/20056(we are not getting tech...) we can as well as get excused from purchasing American reactors.
what else do we want!!!

At 10:40 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Kirk Sorensen,

I think they went through everything that was out there and then decided on the solid mox for reasons which were never told to me.

I can't be of much help in that regard. I plan to read the public domain material available on MOX utilization in India and if I come across something I will put it up on the blog.


I think that is a fair assessment.

To me the deal was about two things,

- reaching a modus vivendi with the Uranium mining lobbies.Gaining US acceptance of our right to exploit our own Uranium. The Americans were funding Anti-Uranium mining organizations that were bent on disrupting our Uranium mining - and this had to stop.

- working out a basis for a technology trade in civilian nuclear materials.

I think the way the deal was reworded has completely destroyed the possibility of the second. There is simply too much incentive to make trouble with that bizarre rewording. Any trade with the US on nuclear tech will now be a repeat of the Enron-Dabhol mess.

Who are all these changes in the bill made to assuage? the Non-Proliferation Yahoos? Who are these people? What standing do they have in the grand scheme of things?

With their over aggressive behavior and constant lying the NPA are pushing us towards the kind of confrontationist attitude that the Chinese have and they are pushing the US towards a position where the Bush family stands discredited on the international arena. Without the NPA this would have all been a million times


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