Friday, November 14, 2008

Canada to Renew Nuclear Ties With India

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, most everybody's heard the old phrase, "Once bitten, twice shy." In case you can't figger out what that means, it means if somebody's done you wrong once, there's a good chance they'll do you wrong again and you oughta be careful dealin' with 'em. It holds true whether you're talkin' about Golden Retrievers or double-dealin' belligerent countries.

Back 35 years ago, Canada sold Candu nuclear technology to India. Not long after that, India developed a nuclear weapon (uh huh, an atomic bomb) using the technology they acquired from our Candu. They admitted it and we stopped nuclear technology dealings with India. In the subsequent decades since India became a nuclear power, they have failed to sign on to the Non Proliferation agreement that most other nuclear powers have signed on to.

Now, Canadian crown corporation AECL is ready to start dealing with India once more. Has India become more stable and responsible since it developed a weapon of mass destruction? Have India and Pakistan settled their differences over Kashmir? Has India agreed to sign on to a non proliferation treaty? No, no, and no.

As usual, news items concerning AECL and the nuclear industry are routinely buried in the business section of the media. Here's the story from today's Globe:
Nuclear deal would allow AECL to renew Indian business ties
From Friday's Globe and Mail
November 14, 2008 at 4:25 AM EST

OTTAWA — Federally owned AECL Ltd. is looking to re-enter the Indian market some 35 years after the south Asian giant shocked the world and brought about its own nuclear isolation by using Candu technology to build a bomb.

The federal government is currently negotiating a nuclear co-operation agreement with India that would allow AECL to re-establish business ties, despite concerns that India has not signed the international nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The negotiations come after Canada backed a decision by the international Nuclear Suppliers Group to provide an exemption for India that would allow it to develop civilian nuclear power even as it maintains its right to develop weapons without international scrutiny.

The United States lobbied hard to exempt India from the kinds of sanctions it imposes on Iran and North Korea, and has concluded its own nuclear co-operation agreement with India. France has also completed a nuclear co-operation agreement, and both countries are now openly competing with Russia to sell reactors there.

Critics complain that the West's special treatment of India will spark a new arms race with Pakistan and undermine the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and argue Canada should hold out for stringent conditions in any bilateral accord.

In an interview from India, AECL chief executive Hugh MacDiarmid said the Crown-owned company is hopeful of getting major service work on the country's aging fleet of heavy-water reactors, and potentially even the sale of a new reactor.

The AECL group met with senior officials from India's Department of Atomic Energy, and from the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd., which has said it intends to build or buy up to 20 reactors over the next 12 years.

"We've been greeted very warmly," Mr. MacDiarmid said, concluding a six-day visit to India and China. He said Indian heavy-water reactor technology has not kept pace with Western companies, and AECL - one of the few companies that also deal in heavy-water reactors - could help modernize it.

"They feel there is a mutual benefit to be had. We do believe there is potential for us to be marketing our reactor technology in this country," he said.

AECL's own future remains very much in doubt as the federal government is reviewing its ownership and considering selling off the 60-year-old Crown corporation, either entirely or to a minority partner. Yesterday, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said the government is looking at selling some Crown corporations - without mentioning names - in order to balance the federal books.

Whether it sells AECL or keeps it, Ottawa is keen to put the company on a stronger commercial footing, and that means ensuring it has access to growing emerging markets such as India's.

In addition to AECL's interest, Canada's broader nuclear industry is eager to see the Indian market open up to them, as is Cameco Corp., the Saskatchewan-based uranium producer that has been prevented from selling fuel to India.

Activist Ernie Regehr of Project Ploughshares said the Indian exemptions undermine the international Non-Proliferation Treaty by sending the message that countries can flout the rules and still co-operate on civilian nuclear uses. He worries the decision by the Nuclear Suppliers Group in September may reignite an arms race with Pakistan, which has reacted angrily to the move.

A spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs confirmed the two sides had "informal" discussions last month and expect to schedule formal sessions soon. She said Canada signalled its support for India's re-engagement with the broader nuclear-energy community when it backed the suppliers' group decision.

"India is a responsible democracy that shares with Canada the fundamental values of freedom, democracy, human rights and respect for the rule of law," government spokesman Lisa Monette said. "India has made substantial non-proliferation and disarmament commitments to achieve the trust of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which were reiterated in a political statement on Sept. 5."

Mr. Regehr said India has made political commitments, such as agreeing not to test nuclear weapons, but has refused to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. It has also insisted on the right to stockpile uranium, which Mr. Regehr says would provide it with an assured fuel supply should it again run afoul of the international suppliers group.

Australia, which along with Canada is one of the world's major uranium miners, is refusing to sell the fuel to India unless it signs the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Mr. Regehr said Canada should do likewise.
Well, King Steve says we gotta quit bein' so ideologically rigid and be more pragmatic. What could be more pragmatic than selling nuclear technology and materials to an eager customer? Step right up, folks. Canada's got nukes for sale. Yes, Mr. Terrist, how much do you bid?



Jennifer Smith said...

Well, looky looky! I do believe this sort of thing falls directly under the purview of our brand spankin' new Minister of Natural Resources, Lil' Lisa Raitt.

Heh. This should be fun.

Saskboy said...

If Mr. Terrist wants to bid more than a reputable government, well, Canada believes in the free market, right?

Ryan said...

Saw this film at the Marda Loop Justice Film Festival this weekend.

Killed all doubts for me about the completely immoral and unethical nature of nuclear power.

Anonymous said...


Just cuz the Globe 'n Mail "buries" AECL stories in the Bizness section doesn't mean they don't zing AECL. The story you quote leads off with a big fat piece of mis-info: "Federally owned AECL Ltd. is looking to re-enter the Indian market some 35 years after the south Asian giant ... [used] Candu technology to build a bomb."

If that was true, there'd be justification for your and your commenters' outrage.

But it ain't true: it wasn't a CANDU. It was a research reactor (totally different) that India significantly tweaked in order to make plutonium.

And it was 30 years ago, right after the NPT was introduced. The NPT let China, India's deadly enemy, be a weapons state while denying India the same classification. With terms like that I wouldn't have signed it either.

Our problem isn't responsible countries like India who are good nuclear citizens even outside of the NPT. It is countries like Iran, who signed the NPT as a cover to secretly build bombs using stolen technology they bought from Pakistan.

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