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India’s Three-Phased N-Power Programme

Excerpts from Prime Minister Singh’s Speech

777-400This Conference commemorates the birth centenary of one of India’s greatest nation builders and scientific pioneers, Dr. Homi Bhabha. Dr. Bhabha laid the foundation of our nuclear programme by enunciating the three…

stage nuclear power programme based on a closed nuclear fuel cycle. We are proud of our national achievements in mastering all aspects of the fuel cycle. The current international interest in closing the fuel cycle is a vindication of Dr. Bhabha’s pioneering vision and genius.

Dr. Bhabha was a brilliant scientist and a true visionary. At the first International Conference on Nuclear Energy in Geneva in 1955, Dr. Bhabha in his presidential address had said:

‘For the full industrialization of the under-developed countries, for the continuation of our civilization and its further development, atomic energy is not merely an aid, it is an absolute necessity. The acquisition by man of the knowledge of how to release and use atomic energy must be recognized as the third epoch of human history.’

This bold vision of what the peaceful uses of atomic energy meant for humanity at large proved to be prophetic. This Conference is taking place on the crest of a global nuclear renaissance, in which I believe India will be a significant factor.

As a result of the far-sighted plans of our scientists, India emerged as a leader in the developing world in harnessing the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The first stage of our three stage nuclear programme, involving the setting up of Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) and associated fuel cycle facilities, has now reached a level of maturity. The technology for the manufacture of various components and equipment for PHWRs in India is now well established and has evolved through active collaboration with Indian industry. The second stage envisages setting up of Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) backed by reprocessing plants and plutonium-based fuel fabrication plants. With the construction of the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor at Kalpakkam we have now entered the second stage of the programme. A facility for reprocessing thorium fuel has also been set up. An Advanced Heavy Water Reactor has been designed and its construction will be launched in the near future. This will expedite the transition to thorium-based systems that will I believe mark the third stage of our programme. We are proud of the achievements of India’s nuclear scientists and of our industry.

Dr. Bhabha had famously remarked that “no power is as expensive as no power” to justify his strong advocacy of nuclear power as an instrument of economic development. This is truer than ever before as the developing countries seek new energy sources to sustain high rates of economic growth. There is now a growing consensus that nuclear power is an important energy source that is also clean. In fact the majority of nuclear power plants under construction worldwide are now located in Asia.

A number of agreements and reciprocal commitments were concluded as part of the Civil Nuclear Initiative to allow the resumption of full civil nuclear cooperation between India and the international community and we look forward to their full and effective implementation in the coming months and years. The return of India to the international nuclear global mainstream is of high significance not only for India but for global energy security as well.

In our country, we see nuclear energy as a vital component of our global energy mix. The vast energy potential of the three stage programme allows us really to think big. Our nuclear industry is poised for a major expansion and there will be huge opportunities for the global nuclear industry to participate in the expansion of India’s nuclear energy programme.

If we can manage our programme well, our three stage strategy could yield potentially 470,000 MW of power by the year 2050. This will sharply reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and will be a major contribution to global efforts to combat climate change.

The peaceful uses of nuclear energy are not just about power. There are promising applications in the areas of agriculture, food production and preservation, medicine and water desalination. In India, we have successfully developed 37 mutant varieties of seeds for commercial cultivation using nuclear techniques. Use of radiation technology for food preservation is growing. We have built a nuclear desalination plant at Kalpakkam and are working on the use of isotope hydrology techniques for rejuvenation of springs, which is an important source of drinking water. I see a growing role for nuclear energy in these areas in the coming decades.

With this limitless potential, I believe that the international community should reflect more on how international cooperation can multiply the benefits of nuclear energy for all humankind.

The International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles is an example of such international cooperation. India is a participant in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or ITER Project. We are ready to contribute to global research and development into new proliferation-resistant fuel cycles. There are proposals for an international fuel bank and we would support efforts in this direction as a supplier nation.

Another critical area of cooperation is that of nuclear safety. The nuclear industry’s safety record over the last few years has been encouraging. It has helped to restore public faith in nuclear power. But the technology and management of nuclear safety must be continuously improved.

This brings me to a vital issue that is fundamental to the safety and security of all humanity – the destructive uses of nuclear energy. Just as we seek to enhance peaceful uses of nuclear energy, we have a pressing and immediate moral obligation to draw down and eventually do away with its destructive use of nuclear energy.

I wish to reaffirm that this collective effort will have no greater proponent than India. India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had advocated the prohibition and abandonment of all weapons of mass destruction way back in the 1950s. It was a call that went largely unheeded at that time. We should not repeat the mistakes of the past.

In 1988, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi put forward at the General Assembly of United Nations a comprehensive Action Plan for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. We remain committed to that objective.

In 2006, India put forward a set of proposals at the United Nations General Assembly that outlined specific steps that could lead to the elimination of nuclear weapons. It included the proposal for the negotiation of a Nuclear Weapons Convention that would prohibit the development, production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons and providing for their elimination within a specified time frame.

The specter of nuclear terrorism is a formidable challenge facing the entire global community. At the United Nations General Assembly India has been sponsoring a resolution calling for measures to address this threat.

We support strengthening international efforts in improving nuclear security and in this context, welcome President Obama’s timely initiative to convene a Global Summit on Nuclear Security in 2010.

If we use the power of the atom wisely for the universal good, the possibilities are unbounded. But if we do not, the consequences would also be devastating for the peace and progress that all nations seek for their people. The choices are stark and the challenges are indeed daunting. But it is not beyond the imagination of the human mind to devise solutions and strategies that exploit the vast potential of atomic energy to advance human progress, while assuring global peace and security. This task will require the collective will, wisdom and determination of the world community but it is a task that can no longer be put off.