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Atomic Buddha - fuelling New Delhi

By Jonathan J. Ariel - posted Thursday, 16 August 2007

Back on July 18, 2005, United States President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agreed in principle to closer US-India civil nuclear ties.

That agreement, recently much advanced, swings open the door to India purchasing uranium on the open market.

On Wednesday, The Australian reported that Federal Cabinet resolved to start shipping uranium to India, subject to Australian inspections of Indian nuclear plants where the yellowcake will be used.


Get set for an anti Delhi orgy, where so-called environmentalists, “internationalists”, politicians, academics and pro-Islamabad types will do their level best to remind the public that India lost access to the international uranium market in 1974 after it detonated a nuclear device. Further, they’ll badger, given that India is not a signatory to the United Nations’ Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), selling New Delhi yellowcake, will only lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

This bunkum was recently unmasked as errant nonsense by the Nuclear Security Science and Policy Institute at Texas A&M University. Addressing the issue of weapons grade material production, the Institute claimed that the proposed understanding between Washington and New Delhi would be helpful to the cause of nuclear non proliferation. The warming of ties between Washington and New Delhi would place some 30-odd additional Indian nuclear facilities, including eight reactors, under international auspices. It would also close one of India’s plutonium production reactors.

Presently, the world’s greatest democracy produces two, perhaps four on the outside, nuclear weapons a year. However it does have the capacity to produce closer to 30 weapons annually. But to do so means diverting large quantities of domestically sourced uranium into weapons grade material, which in turn would greatly reduce its capacity to generate electricity. And to date, India has chosen to focus its (nuclear) energy on generating electricity for civilian use rather than manufacturing atomic weapons.

Hostility to New Delhi’s nuclear ambitions is at best, couched in ignorance, and at worst, in bigotry.

First, antagonists claim that Australian uranium could be transformed into nuclear weapons by India. This ignores India’s limited domestic supply of uranium that could easily be earmarked for weapons grade production, in the absence of imported nuclear fuel. That said, assuming India still wanted to import more nuclear fuel, and that Australia refused to sell it, India could source it (and with some effort, the technology) from Russia or France.

Second, it is believed by many that as India has not signed the NPT, selling her uranium is asking for more proliferation.


This farcical statement assumes the NPT means something, when in fact it means nothing. NPT banner wavers believe that the treaty actually stops proliferation. Truth is, the NPT is manifestly unable to stop the type of proliferation currently underway by jihadists worldwide.

Let’s recap shall we?

Since the 1960s, the possession of nuclear weapons has been the exclusive prerogative of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China and France.

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The Atomic Bazaar: The rise of the nuclear poor, by William LANGEWIESCHE, 179 pp Farrer, Strauss & Giroux, New York, $50

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About the Author

Jonathan J. Ariel is an economist and financial analyst. He holds a MBA from the Australian Graduate School of Management. He can be contacted at

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