Friday, November 16, 2007

Italy: Translation of Indian editor's bestseller 'Bloodbrothers' published

Leading Indian journalist and author M.J. Akbar's successful novel 'Bloodbrothers' has just been published in Italian by one Italy's leading publishing houses, Neri Pozza.

Set in the northern Indian state of Bihar in the last decades of the 19th century, the novel has been a bestseller in India.

'Bloodbrothers tells the story of a young Hindu, Prayag, who loses his parents during the devastating famine that sweeps Bihar in 1870. After a long journey journey, Prayag accepts help from an old Muslim couple who gradually become his adoptive parents.

The novel chronicles a family saga that covers 150 years of Indian history, from colonial domination to independence and the dazzling mosaic of cultures that make up modern India.

Akbar is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Asian Age, a daily multi-edition Indian newspaper with a global perspective and editor-in-chief of The Deccan Chronicle, a news daily based in Hyderabad.

His elective, incisive editorials such that he wrote in May 2006 on Dan Brown's controversial novel 'The Da Vinci Code' have gained a worldwide audience. In the editorial, Akbar wrote: "It is interesting that in India Muslim clerics have sided with Christian priests to ban the film version of the novel."

If books which discredit the Prophet Mohammed are banned , then it is ethnical for Muslims that a movie that discredits Christ should be banned, Akbar argued.

Akbar is also the author of a number of other books. These include 'Nehru: The Making of India', 'Kashmir: Behind the Vale', 'The Shade of Swords: Jihad and the Conflict Between Islam and Christianity' and 'India: The Siege Within'.

Chhath sheds Bihar tag, goes Indian

Parliament rests on Friday as its earlier schedule clashed with Chhath, a festival to hail the glory of Sun God which originated in central Bihar several centuries ago.

But what began as a 'little tradition' has now expanded to almost every place where the state's huge outwardly mobile population set its foot.

The banks of Yamuna and the beaches of Mumbai are no exception as millions of Bihar natives observe Chhath there, even though in later years the festival came to be associated with the river Ganga that divides Bihar in two parts, and the state's other rivers.

Sociologists said the festival's scale had grown as rapidly as the migrant population from Bihar, mainly because it offered people a chance to immediately associate with their roots and culture in a manner very different from other major occasions like Durga Puja, Diwali and Holi.

"The expansion of a group of people in newer and uncharted areas makes it more concerned about identity. Chhath becomes special because other festivals are not so well entwined with their place of origin, in this case Bihar.

The trend is same for India's other region-specific festivals but Chhath is highly visible as the sheer number of people celebrating it is huge in places like Delhi and Mumbai," JNU sociologist Anand Kumar said.

Natives of Bihar have moved out in large numbers during the past two decades in search of better livelihood prospects.

The otherwise rigorous festival -- in which those observing it fast for three days under a regimen aimed at not displeasing the Sun God -- has a liberal streak too.

The rituals involve paying homage by pouring milk before the setting Sun one day and to the rising Sun the next morning. It is now increasingly done by the side of other water bodies like oceans, lakes and ponds.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Kalam turns editor

Former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam was the people's President, and on the occasion of Children's Day, Kalam dons a new hat by turning editor for an online paper.

Never one to sit idle, former President APJ Abdul Kalam has moved on. Today (November 14) is Children's Day - a day when Kalam launches his own e-paper, which will celebrate the success stories of ordinary Indians.

Kalam is the first President to have taken to skies in a fighter jet, he's the father of India's missile programme (SLV Launch) and now, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam is all set to become the editor of an online E-paper.

Kalam quotes, "When I was in Madhya Pradesh, I was addressing 80,000 young people when a kid said, 'Why don't you have some place, where all the good things are written? It will have all the positive developments, that are happening in the country, that people can read'."

The fortnightly called a 'Billion Beats', will essay the Former President's thoughts and stories of India's achievers, young and old. It will also be available as a link, on the former President's website (, which has one lakh hits a day.

As Anantha Krishnan, National Affairs Editor, 'Billion Beats', puts it, "It all started with an informal chat with Dr Kalam. He felt that there's an overdose of politics, murders, crime and there's a lot of negative stories in print. So, he felt that we should celebrate the victories also. Children's Day seemed to be the right time to launch the paper. Dr Kalam wants all the success stories of scientists, agriculturists, farmers and technocrats. Basically 'Billion Beats', will try to bring to the fore, the tales of unsung heroes."

The paper will be formally launched by the former President In Andhra Pradesh, at a function attended by thousands of school children today (November 14, 2007).

Scientist, President and now even journalist, the number of hats that Dr Abdul Kalam can simultaneously wear, never ceases to amaze. Now with this venture, Dr Kalam says that he hopes to tell the stories of unsung heroes to one billion Indians, and what better day to launch it than Children's Day?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

India to have four 500 MW FBRs by 2020

India will have four 500 MW fast breeder reactors (FBRs) by 2020 and pre-project activities of these have been initiated, the Director of Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Energy Baldev Raj said here on Wednesday.

The Planning Commission has already cleared four more 500 MW FBRs each costing around Rs 3,100 crores and two of the reactors will be set up at Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu along with the existing Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) and the under- construction Prototype Fast Breeder reactor (PFBR), Raj told to media persons on the sidelines of ongoing International Symposium on Energy Related Materials.

The Department of Atomic Energy is in process of looking for a site for the two new reactors. The pre-project activities of these FBRs are already on and the construction of these would begin in 2014, Raj said.

The FBTR is working very well for the last 22 years and PFBR is scheduled to reach criticality in 2010, he said.

"Since the PFBR will be ready by 2010, only after gaining some operational experience of the new type of reactor, we will begin construction of the four units by 2014," he said.

Atomic Energy Department is also in the process of putting up an integrated fuel cycle facility---a reprocessing unit of the irradiated fuel during the 11th five year plan.

Asked whether DAE has stock-piled enough plutonium for these four reactors in addition to the upcoming PFBR, Raj said "we have enough plutonium already to meet these needs."

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Mammal origin in India

Many present day plant and animal species might have their origin in India, a new find has suggested.

Scientists have suggested the new theory after the discovery of a 66-million-year old tooth in central India. The newfound tooth was unearthed in a sedimentary rock sandwiched between lava flows from the late part of the Cretaceous period, which spanned from 145.5 to 65.5 million years ago.

According to a new study led by Guntupalli Prasad of the University of Jammu, the tooth may have belonged to one of the condylarths, which were a group of primitive mammals. They included the ancestors of modern hoofed animals such as goats, horses, cows, sheep, and deer.

Because the newfound molar is about three million years older than the earliest known Condylarth specimen, this places it on the Indian subcontinent at a time when the landmass was a drifting island that had just broken away from the super continent called Gondwana. This has fuelled speculation about many mammal species originating in India.

"Many researchers had postulated that mammalian groups may have originated from basal Gondwanan stocks during the northward flight of India and finally dispersed to Asia when India collided with the Asian mainland around 55 million years ago," said Prasad.

Scientists are also supporting this theory because mammal fossils found on the southern continents that date to the time of Gondwana are quite rare.

"With a few minor exceptions, the only other place where there are really good records of mammals at that time is North America," said J David Archibald, an evolutionary biologist at San Diego State University.

But some researchers are puzzled about the primitive tooth's presence in India. "How did this animal get onto India, when the landmass was probably about in the middle of the Indian Ocean on a rapid drift northward?" asks Kenneth Rose, a palaeontologists. "That's one of the really intriguing questions here. If it is an ungulate (hoofed mammal), it provides an interesting scenario that some primitive stock got onto India and later evolved into ungulates," he speculates.

An interesting hypothesis is that good interspecies exchange existed between India and the Asian continent even during the Cretaceous period.

If so, the early ungulates might not have originated in India but somehow moved there from northern locales, where their fossils are more commonly found. "But it's still quite interesting to realize that there is some kind of placental mammal that was on India in the late Cretaceous period," said Rose.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Dear Frineds Wish you all a very Happy,Safe and Prosperous Deepawali

home delivery - happy diwali

TCS, Infy among world's top-20 FinTech list

NEW YORK: Four Indian companies, including two of the country's biggest IT firms, TCS and Infosys, have been named among the world's 100 biggest technology providers to the global financial services industry. Tata Consultancy Services has also emerged as the first Indian firm to be named among the top 10 in the annual FinTech 100 list of financial industry technology vendors that was released here.

Besides TCS and Infosys, I-Flex Solutions and Patni Computer Services have been named in the list. TCS moved up three positions from 13th last year to be ranked as 10th biggest technology vendor in 2007. Infosys also moved up four positions to 14th this year. It had been ranked at 18th position in 2006 and 28th in 2005.

I-Flex and Patni have been ranked at 30th and 45th positions respectively in the FinTech 100 list that is topped by Fidelity Information Services of the US. TCS is the only second non-US firm in the top ten, besides the UK-based Reuters (8th) in the list.

Other companies in the top ten include Fiserve (2nd), NCR (3rd), Diebold (4th), SunGard (5th), Unisys (6th), Broadridge Financial Solutions (7th) and First Data Corp (9th).

The annual ranking is being published for four years now by American Banker, a banking and financial services daily, and Financial Insights, a unit of global independent technology advisory firm IDC.

In an accompanying list of top 25 enterprise technology vendors for the financial services industry, none of the Indian companies could make the mark.

Last year, India's third biggest IT firm Wipro was named on this list at 22nd position, but has moved out this year.
The enterprise software list has been topped by IBM, followed by Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Fujitsu, Cisco, Microsoft, Electronic Data Systems, Hitachi, Siemens Business Services and Accenture in the top ten.

Other companies on this 25-member list include Sun Microsystems, Intel, EMC, Computer Sciences Corp, Oracle, ATOS Origin, Capgemini, Getronics, LogicaCMG, SAP AG, Thomson Financial, Deloitte, Avaya, Symantec and BearingPoint.

In the FinTech 100 list of 2006, there were five Indian companies, TCS, Infosys, I-Flex (38th), Patni (50th) and SunTech (86th). While I-Flex and Patni have moved up in the rankings, Trivandrum-based SunTech has moved out this year.

American Banker and Financial Insights said in an accompanying report that all the FinTech 100 firms garnered more than 48 billion dollars in sales from financial institutions in 2006.

"The financial services industry relies on technology to remain competitive and address regulatory changes in an increasingly complex and dynamic market," American Banker Editor-in-Chief David Longobardi said.

"FinTech companies are growing faster than what the industry spends on technology... Acquisitions have played a part, but top vendors strive to become trusted partners with their financial institution customers," Financial Insights' Global Banking and Insurance Research Vice President Jeanne Capachin said.

The companies named to the list would be honoured at the BAI Retail Delivery Conference and Expo in Las Vegas on November 14 at the Mandalay Bay.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

World's No. 1 guru is an Indian

MUMBAI: India gave the world the word “guru”. And now, an Indian has been declared the world’s foremost management guru. C K Prahalad, professor at the University of Michigan’s Stephen M Ross School of Business, has been crowned the greatest management thinker alive by Thinkers 50, an annual ranking of the top 50 management thought leaders in the world.

In this year’s Thinkers 50 — released in London on Wednesday — Prahalad (No. 3 last year) has trumped the likes of former US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, strategy guru Michael Porter and Microsoft founder Bill Gates to emerge as No. 1.

There are three other Indians in the top 50: CEO coach Ram Charan at No. 22 (up from No. 24 last year), innovation guru Vijay Govindarajan of the Tuck Business School at No. 23 (No. 31 last year); and Harvard’s Rakesh Khurana at No. 45 (No. 33 last year).

"Not many management thinkers actually follow up important early ideas with genuinely groundbreaking future ideas. This is what C K Prahalad has managed to do. His work with Gary Hamel set the strategic agenda of the 1990s. Now, with "The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid", he has established the social, entrepreneurial and economic agenda of our times," said Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove of Suntop Media, the organisation which brings out the Thinkers 50 ranking.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

India in 2005 unveiled its revolutionary design of 'A Thorium Breeder Reactor' that can produce 600 MW of electricity for two years 'with no refuelling and practically no control manoeuvres.'

Designed by scientists of the Mumbai-based Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, the ATBR is claimed to be far more economical and safer than any power reactor in the world.

Most significantly for India, ATBR does not require natural or enriched uranium which the country is finding difficult to import. It uses thorium -- which India has in plenty -- and only requires plutonium as 'seed' to ignite the reactor core initially.

Eventually, the ATBR can run entirely with thorium and fissile uranium-233 bred inside the reactor (or obtained externally by converting fertile thorium into fissile Uranium-233 by neutron bombardment).

BARC scientists V Jagannathan and Usha Pal revealed the ATBR design in their paper presented at the week-long 'international conference on emerging nuclear energy systems' in Brussels. The design has been in the making for over seven years.

According to the scientists, the ATBR while annually consuming 880 kg of plutonium for energy production from 'seed' rods, converts 1,100 kg of thorium into fissionable uranium-233. This diffrential gain in fissile formation makes ATBR a kind of thorium breeder.

The uniqueness of the ATBR design is that there is almost a perfect 'balance' between fissile depletion and production that allows in-bred U-233 to take part in energy generation thereby extending the core life to two years.

This does not happen in the present day power reactors because fissile depletion takes place much faster than production of new fissile ones.

BARC scientists say that "the ATBR with plutonium feed can be regarded as plutonium incinerator and it produces the intrinsically proliferation resistant U-233 for sustenance of the future reactor programme."

They say that long fuel cycle length of two years with no external absorber management or control manoeuvres "does not exist in any operating reactor."

The ATBR annually requires 2.2 tonnes of plutonium as 'seed'. Althouth India has facilities to recover plutonium by reprocessing spent fuel, it requires plutonium for its Fast Breeder Reactor programme as well. Nuclear analysts say that it may be possible for India to obtain plutonium from friendly countries wanting to dismantle their weapons or dispose of their stockpiled plutonium.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Baby, You Can Plug In My Car-India's electric car Reva sets the wheels in motion in climate-conscious UK

Where's my wire: A Reva charging point in London's Covent Garden area

Thrifty Lady
* No engine, only a motor. No fuel tanks, no exhaust, no emissions, and no noise.
* Drive 10 km every day for a year for the price of a single tank of petrol
* Speed 70 km an hour, range 80 km on a single charge from a normal socket for a
few hours. Charging stations introduced in central London.
* Parking free, and no congestion charge either in the UK. Savings on this alone
pays for the car in a year.
* Zero emissions; save the climate, and money
* Car service at your door
It's only a little longer than a longish stride and as silent as tip-toeing; it's a car without a conventional engine or fuel tank that so far only Bangalore and London really share.

A member of the Green Party can drive to a meeting where a parked G-Wiz will say what words can never.

G-Wiz: that's what the London distributors of the Bangalorean Reva car are calling it. And that's what an excited London media is exclaiming too. Just about every newspaper and TV channel here has been smitten by this little phenomenon on wheels.

With about 900 cars on London's roads, a fair bit more than the 650 in Bangalore, G-Wiz has claimed more attention than sales so far. But this is a breakthrough car; the first car to run on batteries that works in an everyday kind of way. At 70 km an hour, it is fast enough for city driving, and with an 80 km range on a single charge of a few hours in an ordinary electric socket, it gets far enough for ordinary use. It's cheap to use; you can run it for a year averaging 10 km a day for the price of a single tank of petrol. At £7,000 (Rs 5.7 lakh), the cost is not as little as you'd like. But count in the savings, and that price can drop pretty fast.

And the price could come down. "The cars are imported from Bangalore, which means we pay import duty of 6.5 per cent, and VAT 17.5 per cent," says Keith Johnston, MD of GoinGreen, the car's London distribution company. "We're really looking for a signal from the government to cut taxes and to offer incentives for imports, in order to bring down the price further." The car does need more than 900 owners.

So, who are these 900? "They are environmentally aware, well-educated and reasonably affluent," says Johnston. "Age-wise, they are across the board, but it's mostly the middle-aged urban professional." The zero emission from the car itself answers a rapidly louder call across Europe for cutting carbon emissions from car exhausts. An industrially induced rise in carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere is thought to contribute to global warming, precipitating unwanted climate change. That makes G-Wiz perfect for a globalising conscience of the green-minded.

You'd like to think you're driving from point A to B without a speck of a glacier melting along the way. But, of course, the glacier will not remain untouched if power to the point you plug the car into has come from a power plant burning oil or coal, and therefore sending off those warming emissions. But, at least the owner is not twice the sinner. In the ideal world, power to that plug point would come from a solar panel or a wind turbine. That's when a member of the Green Party can drive to a meeting where a G-Wiz parked outside will say what words can never.

Right now the London G-Wiz driver is not doing that much to cool the allegedly warming world; it would be nasty to point out that these 900 cars, even with their Bangalore population added on, is just a minuscule fraction of the 700 million cars worldwide. But what does work, here and now, is "the saving of those other emissions from the pocket", quips Johnston.

London is peculiarly placed to cut these emissions.

Parking in central London, otherwise prohibitively priced at up to six pounds an hour, is free for G-Wiz. That could mean a saving of 20 pounds a day or more on just parking in central London. Save also the eight pounds a day congestion charge slapped on those polluting cars for driving into London. "You could save up to £600 a month on this car, in a year it will pay for itself," says Johnston.

So this, more than its 'greenery', is the car's big selling point. Well, it's certainly true for Rachel, inspecting the cars at the distribution centre in Southall. Rachel is less worried about capsizing island countries (because warming atmosphere melts glaciers and so sea levels are rising, they say) than her bills. She runs a small courier company in Hounslow, located to collect packets from nearby Heathrow. For distribution in central London, she thinks her usual petrol-driven car can take her packets up to Hammersmith just outside central London. Then on, a G-Wiz could take over, with enough room on the left seat, and with the back seat flattened to make room for parcels. This can bring substantial savings that, she says, she can pass on to clients, consequently making herself more competitive.

But the car can mean savings to just anyone. Just plug it in as you would a toaster, and away you go in a couple of hours, with 80 per cent charged. The remaining 20 per cent takes more than twice as long, for reasons that batteries know best. So it's not the car in which you'd want to explore the highlands and islands of Scotland. It's the car for local hopping. In time, people will get used to G-Wiz workers who need a power point, and guests who drop in and plug in.

But on the other side, London's eccentricities are not an unmixed blessing. The car needs off-street parking simply so a normal electricity cable can be plugged into the battery. Running an electric cable across pavement space into the car is not exactly illegal, but if someone were to trip over it and fall, you could lose a lot more than the car can save you.

Now Westminster council in central London has begun to put up power points where the batteries can be charged as you park. That should make even a longish ride into central London possible. The problem is to make that mental leap from the idea of a 'proper' car to riding a trail-blazing insect. But even conventional car manufacturers now see Reva as a sign of times to come. The ceos of Nissan and Renault have just said that the future is electric. And not hybrid either, where you might mix the two; doing both is expensive, among other things. By 2012, many conventional car makers are planning to launch purely electric cars.

Reva, with its English cousin G-Wiz, is gearing up for the new competition. The insect has already metamorphosed swiftly from DC current to more efficient and powerful AC usage. Its older drive system is being changed to make the car a good deal nippier. A new generation of lithium-ion batteries will be introduced in 2008 to make charging quicker, and last longer. Software is not all that Bangalore has to show to the world.

Chetan Maini, chief technology officer of Reva Electric Car Company, got the idea of the green car from his days at the University of Michigan, US, in the 1990s. He teamed up with Dr Lon Bell from California to work out manufacturing in India. "The styling and engineering was done jointly by a team in the US and in India," Maini says. Distribution centres have now been set up in Norway and Spain, and others are planned in Cyprus, Greece and Ireland.

It's all on low budget. Reva sells in London without a showroom, without an advertising or marketing budget.There are no car salesmen; existing users offer to take new customers on a test drive. You buy online, servicing comes to your door. "Our showroom is the streets of London," says Johnston.

That means that with the distribution centre located in Southall, no one gets to see the car more than Southall Sikhs—and nobody seems less interested. There has been only one inquiry from Southall so far, and that didn't lead to a sale. "It's a bit odd, isn't it?," says Johnston. But then he doesn't understand Sikhs. The car is environment-friendly, not sardar-friendly. As seen by Southall's Sikhs, G-Wiz suffers a continuing problem: it never will be a vaddi gaddi

Monday, November 05, 2007

India's Military Pitches in for Thorium Reactors

For the first time, the Indian military in its India Defence journal, said the "success" of the innovative reactor ("that can run on thorium") that the Indian nuclear scientists have designed and which will eventually do away with uranium, largely depends on US playing ball, referring to the on-going US-India nuclear agreement negotiations. U.S. in the agreement has agreed to provide India with dual-use technologies, nuclear reactors, among other "goodies", but insists that India cannot reprocess spent fuel to extract plutonium, nor can it test nuclear explosives any more.

India Defence points out that the key to the Indian design is the role of the Fast Thorium Breeder Reactor (FTBR). India's premier atomic research center, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre's (BARC's), FTBR is the first design that truly exploits the concept of 'breeding' in a reactor that uses thorium. The handful of fast breeder reactors (FBRs) in the world today--including the one India is building in Kalpakkam near Chennai--use plutonium as fuel. These breeders have to wait until enough plutonium is accumulated through reprocessing of spent fuel discharged by thermal power reactors that run on uranium.

India Defence pointed out that while the FTBR will not produce any plutonium--commonly identified as the ingredient for making nuclear explosives--the FTBR still needs an initial inventory of plutonium to kick-start the thorium cycle and eventually to generate electricity. A blanket ban on India re-processing imported uranium--a condition for nuclear cooperation with the US--could make India's thorium program a non-starter, India Defence added.

Quoting former Indian Atomic Energy Commission chairman, P.K. Iyengar, India Defence says: "The US and Russia have piles of plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapons," adding: "They should allow us to borrow this plutonium needed to start our breeders. We can return the material after we breed enough."

India's 30% Thorium resource base can fuel for next 2500 years of Electricity

India is trying hard to get a n-deal when it's a superpower in Thorium and stands 2nd in Thorium deposit with which it can be self sufficient for next 2500 years.

It's fate of our politicians to pledge 30 years of Abdul Kalam, Anil Kadodkar and n no of unknown Indian Scientists R&D Efforts.

Dont just support either Cong / Left / BJP. All the parties are fighting each other for what we dont need that much through this N-Deal.

See the below links and think of yourself who's dependent on whom.

Uranium is past energy, Thorium is future energy, until every other country get's Helium from Moon in 2020. So, we're unnecessarily going for a n-deal which makes our Worlds' only Thorium Plant and technology exposed to every dick and jerry country.

We need to spend more, to get costliest energy and create dependency on NSG countries for Uranium, when Indian is having almost 30% of Worlds' Thorium deposits

Fast breeder reactor -

Quote from above URL:

"India has the capability to use Thorium Cycle based processes to extract nuclear fuel. This is of special significance to the Indian nuclear power generation strategy as India has large reserves of thorium — about 360,000 tonnes — that can fuel nuclear projects for an estimated 2,500 years. But the hitch is with the expensive nature of the construction of Fast Breeder Reactor in comparison with the Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR) in use. This is one of the main reasons why India is looking at the cheaper option - Uranium fuel."

- So, our only issue here is spending much on constructing the Heavy Water Reactors. But, Russia is already assisting us to minimize the cost, since they too are spending much on R&D for Thorium based reactors

India's Thorium Base -

So, Thorium is as common as Lead in the World, but not utilized properly, since Western countries abandoned it. Now, they want to explore the options.

A must see PPT on what US scientist analyzing on Thorium in here

US fears on India's Thorium Resources & Technology -

About Thorium -

Cost of Uranium compared with other sort of energy - (not that much cheaper)

Nuclear cost calculator -

Coal vs Uranium Power cost -

Various forms of energy

Compare various energies

After reading this what do you conclude? Just see the political fuss on this issue in our country. Why do we need to depend on America for our Energy needs, why cant we be energy independent?

Why Indian Scientists oppose Indo US Nuclear Deal

At a ceremony in the White House on Dec. 18, U.S. President George W. Bush signed the U.S.-India nuclear agreement, otherwise known as the Henry J. Hyde U.S.-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act. The bill would enable American nuclear transfers to India to take place in the future, following a 32-year moratorium.

In India, however, the opposition to the bill remains strong within the scientific community, which believes that it would stymie India's indigenous and hard-earned thorium fuel-based nuclear program. As a result of their pointed arguments, the Manmohan Singh government has yielded to the parliamentary opposition's demand for a full discussion of the bill in India's Parliament. Although the opposition to the bill stems from two major segments of Indian society—the military and the scientific community—to the chagrin of the government, it is now actively discussed by political leaders.

On the American side, three other approvals—by the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the U.S. Congress—are still needed before American nuclear transfers to India can take place. Although the U.S. Congress voted overwhelmingly on Dec.9 to approve the bill, amidst strong resistance put up by the nuclear non-proliferation lobby, Congress still needs to approve the technical details of nuclear trade in a so-called 123 agreement—a peaceful nuclear cooperation pact with a foreign country, under the conditions outlined in Section 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act.

Uneasy Non-Proliferators

There is little doubt that the White House, helped by a massive lobbying team mobilized on Capitol Hill by the Indian Embassy and non-resident Indians, considers passing the bill in a relatively short period of time as a great success in bringing U.S.-Indian relations closer in the near future.

The opposition to the bill within the United States was epitomized by a letter sent to the U.S. Senate in mid-November by 18 arms-control advocates. They said that without amendments, the proposed legislation "would have far-reaching and adverse effects on U.S. nonproliferation and security objectives." Signers included Robert Einhorn, former assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation; Lawrence Korb, former assistant secretary of defense; Prof. Frank von Hippel of Princeton University; Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association; and John Isaacs of the Council for a Livable World.

Their concerns center around India's alleged unwillingness to curb its nuclear weapons program, India's lack of transparency in non-proliferation efforts, and its close ties with Iran. A new report by the Congressional Research Service, which examines policy issues for Congress, found that while India does not want Iran to have nuclear weapons, New Delhi's "views of the Iranian threat and appropriate responses [to that threat] differ significantly from U.S. views." In 2004, Washington imposed sanctions on two Indian scientists for nuclear-related transfers to Iran, and in 2005 and 2006, four Indian companies were sanctioned for chemical-related transfers to Iran, the report noted.

In India, the opposition to the bill is based on an entirely different perspective. India has remained a non-signatory of the Nuclear-Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) since the Treaty entered into force in 1970, following U.S. ratification. Staying outside of the NPT-regime, India has tested its nuclear devices on three occasions—once in 1974 and twice in 1998. In other words, India has developed nuclear weapons, but it is not recognized as a nuclear weapons state by the five official Nuclear Weapons States (NWS)—United States, Russia, Britain, France, and China—which had all tested their nuclear devices prior to the existnce of the NPT.

Atomic Scientists and Military

The issue of future nuclear tests is important to the opponents of the bill in India, because they consider that such tests are necessary in order to upgrade India's nuclear weapons to match nuclear developments elsewhere, and provide security to the nation. The Hyde Act that President Bush signed categorically demands that India ban all nuclear explosive tests in the future. It, however, does not address the fact that the United States itself is working on the design of a "Reliable Replacement Weapon" (RRW) to modernize its nuclear arsenal, and may indeed carry out a test in the future!

Moreover, in the "Definitions" section of the contested bill, it is clearly stated that the "Additional Protocol" is to be based on the Model Additional protocol of the IAEA applicable to non-nuclear-weapon states, which is highly intrusive, as pointed out by India's former Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) chairman, M.R. Srinivasan, in a recent article in the English news daily The Hindu.

He also pointed out that the Hyde Act makes it clear that the U.S. President has to satisfy himself that India is working actively on an early conclusion of the Fissile Material Control regime (FMCT); that India is supporting the United States in preventing the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technologies; and that India adheres to the Misssile Test Control Regime (MTCR) and NSG guidelines (without actually being invited to be a member of these bodies). These actions which India is obliged to take are not consistent with what "a strategic partner" (which Washington wishes India to be) should be taking. Neither are they consistent with what India—described as a "responsible state with advanced technology"—should be mandated to take, Srinivasan affirmed.

What also concerns India's defense planners about the bill, is the way it has been formulated. The Hyde Act calls for achieving a moratorium on the production of fissile material for explosive purposes by India, Pakistan, and the People's Republic of China. It may be recalled that China has been producing fissile material for weapons purposes for a long time, while India was not allowed to by the NWS. Therefore, stopping production of fissile material at the same point of time would lead to a serious imbalance. The statement of policy goes on to say that the United States shall "seek to halt the increase of nuclear weapon arsenals in South Asia and to promote their reduction and eventual elimination."

India's Thorium Program Is the Issue

Indian scientists have made their views known about the inadequacy of the Hyde Act, citing two specific areas. First, the bill says categorically that India cannot reprocess spent fuel from its reactors. it demands this because the United States claims that the "no reprocessing" clause would prevent India from getting plutonium, which could be used later for making nuclear weapons. However, there is more to the clause than meets the eye, Indian atomic scientists point out.

India decided on a three-stage nuclear program back in the 1950s, when India's nuclear power generation program was set up. In the first stage, natural uranium (U-238) was used in pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs). In the second stage, the plutonium extracted through reprocessing from the used fuel of the PHWRs was scheduled to be used to run fast-breeder reactors (FBRs). The plutonium was used in the FBRs in 70% mixed oxide (MOX)-fuel, to breed uranium-233 in a thorium-232 blanket around the core. In the final stage, the FBRs use thorium-232 and produce uranium-233 for use in the third stage reactors. (See Ramtanu Maitra, "Thorium: Preferred Nuclear Fuel of the Future," EIR, Nov. 18, 2005.)

To a certain extent, India has completed the first stage, although it has realized a dozen nuclear power plants so far. The second stage is only realized by a small experimental fast breeder reactor (13 MW), at Kalpakkam. Meanwhile, the Indian authorities have cleared the Department of Atomic Energy's proposal to set up a 500 MW prototype of the next-generation fast-breeder nuclear power reactor at Kalpakkam, thereby setting the stage for the commercial exploitation of thorium as a fuel source.

One reason for India's commitment to switch over to thorium, is its large indigenous supply. With estimated thorium reserves of some 290,000 tons, it ranks second only to Australia. Further, the nation's pursuit of thorium helps to bring independence from overseas uranium sources. Since India is a non-signatory of the NPT, its leaders foresaw that its civil nuclear-energy-generation program would be constrained in the long term by the provisions laid down by the commercial uranium suppliers. The 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group demand that purchasers sign the NPT and thereby allow enough oversight to ensure that the fuel (or the plutonium spawned from it) is not used for making nuclear weapons. A non-signatory of the NPT is prevented from receiving any nuclear-related technology and nuclear fuel.

India already began the construction of the Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) in 2005. The AHWR will use thorium, the "fuel of the future," to generate 300 MW of electricity—up from its original design output of 235 MW. The fuel for the AHWR will be a hybrid core, partly thorium-uranium 233 and partly thorium-plutonium.

In other words, if India cannot reprocess the spent fuel to secure plutonium for the sake of converting thorium into fuel, the thorium reactors will never take off. Separation of plutonium is essential for the eventual use of thorium as a nuclear fuel. India therefore expects that reprocessing will be an important activity of its nuclear energy program This is what has put the Indian atomic scientists on a warpath against the Singh government's willingness to accept the bill.

Natural uranium contains about 99.3% of the isotope uranium-238 and 0.7% of the fissionable isotope uranium-235. Although uranium-235 is the rarer of the uranium isotopes, it is the one that most readily undergoes nuclear fission, and is thus the most useful for common nuclear applications. Therefore, to use uranium, the proportion of the uranium-235 isotope found in natural uranium must be increased. This process of increasing the fraction of uranium-235 in natural uranium is called enrichment. At the same time, one must note that while uranium-235 is present in natural uranium in small amounts, uranium-233 does not exist in nature. Therefore, thorium-232 must be converted to uranium-233 in order to generate nuclear power.

Not an Easy 123

The second concern of the Indian scientists is the scope of "full civilian nuclear energy cooperation" (Section 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act) that was promised to India in July 2005. India had assumed that this term encompassed the fuel cycle, namely enrichment of uranium and reprocessing of spent fuel. In the discussions leading to the adoption of the Hyde Act, U.S. legislators argued that the U.S. Atomic Energy Act of 1954 specifically forbids export of these technologies, as also heavy water production technology, to other countries. India has developed its own technologies in these three important areas.

According to an English news daily, The Times of India, India's top atomic scientists have spelled out some of the key points to be incorporated in the 123 agreement are:

* India should not be asked to participate in international non-proliferation efforts with a policy congruent to that of the United States.

* There should be full-scale civilian nuclear cooperation, with an assurance of constant fuel supply.

* India should be free to carry out more nuclear weapons tests.

United States Offers India Thorium Based Nuclear Reactors

While India is still debating how to make the Indo-US nuclear deal work, an American company, anxious to enter the Indian market, has offered to build commercial nuclear power reactors in the country.

These reactors will rely entirely on India's thorium resources -- except at the start - and thereby remove the objections of critics.

The California-based Dauvergne Brothers Inc (DBI) says its novel type of thorium breeder reactor is fuelled with fissile material like uranium only once when it is started. It runs for its full operational life on Uranium-233 (or U-233) bred in its core from thorium.

Thorium, which India has in plenty, cannot be directly burned in a reactor. It has to be converted into fissile U-233. India's own thorium utilisation strategy hinges on reprocessing -- a contentious issue between India and the US. The DBI claims its design is tailor-made for the Indian situation.

According to the company, its reactor 'starts up using conventional uranium-based nuclear fuels, and incrementally converts to an all-thorium fuel cycle over a period of 10 years, using India's abundant supply of thorium ores to maintain energy independence'.

It said that computer simulations of the DBI thorium breeder reactor show that a single load of 25 percent uranium oxide fuel and 75 percent thorium oxide will keep the reactor running for a decade.

'In that time enough U-233 will be bred in the thorium oxide fuel to increase the output power of the DBI reactor core by 50 percent adding only fresh thorium oxide as fuel.' After that, no uranium ores are needed.

Conventional breeder reactor designs -- including the one contemplated by Indian scientists -- require chemical reprocessing to retrieve bred fuel from used uranium fuel rods or from irradiated thorium' blankets'.

The DBI reactor, according to the company, uses a different strategy.

After approximately 10 years of operation, much of the activated thorium fuel would be transferred without any reprocessing into a second-generation DBI reactor core with higher power output than the first.

'Fresh thorium breeder bundles will be added to perpetuate the cycle.'

This fuel plan relies on a robust, low-neutron absorbing, radiation-resistant, proprietary fuel encapsulation system developed by DBI, the company said.

Unlike the zirconium fuel cladding of most breeder reactors, the DBI fuel capsules are derived from industrially available material, much less expensive than nuclear-grade zirconium alloys.

While the modular core design offers scalability, several other features of the DBI thorium reactor programme could prevent weapons proliferation, the company claims.

For instance, it says the start up fuel could be a proliferation-resistant fuel, such as the denatured plutonium/thorium fuel recently developed by Thorium Power Inc, another US company.

'International agreements between India and uranium-source nations to use proliferation-resistant fuels in the DBI Reactor Programme, subject to IAEA monitoring, could sever the link between civilian and military nuclear programmes in India, without adversely affecting India's ability to scale up the DBI Reactor Programme using native thorium in future generations,' the company said.

India's nuclear power programme Can move ahead even without US support

As the Dispute on 123 agreement goes on in Indian Polity and row continues between the Left parties,BJP and the Congress Government, a key aspect from the Indian viewpoint is that India has certain inherent strengths in the area of nuclear technology, which would enable India to forge ahead, albeit slowly, even without US cooperation.

Central to this argument is the availability of huge reserves of thorium in India. Thorium reserves have been estimated to be between 3,60,000 and 5,18,000 tonnes. The US estimates the “economically extractable” reserves to be 2,90,000 tonnes, one of the largest in the world. Our uranium reserves, by contrast, are estimated to be at a maximum of around 70,000 tonnes.

India currently has 15 commercial power reactors in operation, most of which are pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWR) which use natural uranium. Two Tarapur reactors are boiling water reactors (BWR) which need enriched uranium, which has to be imported.

Together they generate about 3300 MWe (Mega Watt Electrical) of power, about 4 per cent of that generated from all sources. Another six PHWRs are in construction, and along with the two “VVER” Russian built 1000 MWe reactors which use enriched uranium, they would add about 3960 MWe by 2008. The goal is to reach at least 20,000 MWe by 2020.

India's uranium reserves are low. Obtaining enriched uranium for the two Tarapur reactors and VVER type reactors requires the consent of the Nuclear Suppliers Groups countries, including Russia. This is where the agreement with the US is expected to be beneficial to India.

Also central to India's success in achieving these goals, is the harnessing of thorium, for which India has developed a three-stage nuclear programme. India has already developed and tested the technologies needed to extract energy from Thorium, but large scale execution has not yet been possible, mainly because of limited availability of Plutonium.

Stage one is the use of PHWRs. Natural uranium is the primary fuel. Heavy water (deuterium oxide, D2O) is used as moderator and coolant. The composition of natural uranium is 0.7 percent U-235, which is fissile, and the rest is U-238. This low fissile component explains why certain other types of reactors require the uranium to be “enriched” i.e. the fissile component increased.

In the second stage, the spent fuel from stage one is reprocessed in a reprocessing facility, where Plutonium-239 is separated. Plutonium, of course, is a weapons material, which goes towards creating India’s nuclear deterrent.

Pu-239 then becomes the main fissile element, the fuel core, in what are known as fast breeder reactors (FBR). A test FBR is in operation in Kalpakkam, and the construction for a 500 MWe prototype FBR was launched recently by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.

These are known as breeder reactors because the U-238 “blanket” surrounding the fuel core will undergo nuclear transmutation to produce more PU-239, which in turn will be used to create energy.

The stage also envisages the use of Thorium (Th-232) as another blanket. Th-232 also undergoes neutron capture reactions, creating another uranium isotope, U-233. It is this isotope which will be used in the third stage of the programme. Thorium by itself is not a fissile material, and cannot be used directly to produce nuclear energy. The Kamini 40 MWe reactor at Kalpakkam which became critical in Sept 1996, using U-233 fuel, has demonstrated some of these technologies.

India is currently developing a prototype advanced heavy water reactor (AHWR) of 300 MWe capacity. The AHWRs, which use plutonium based fuel, are to be used to shorten the period of reaching full scale utilisation of our thorium reserves. The AHWR is thus the first element of the third stage. AHWR design is complete but further R and D work is required, especially on safety. It is expected to be unveiled soon and construction launched.

In the third phase, in addition to the U-233 created from the second phase, breeder reactors fuelled by U-233, with Th-232 blankets, will be used to generate more U-233.

The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre has estimated that India's thorium reserves can amount to a staggering 3,58,000 GWe-yr (Giga Watt Electrical - Year) of energy, enough for the next century and beyond

BARC scientists are also looking at other designs, like an advanced thorium breeder reactor (ATBR) which requires plutonium only as a seed to start off the reaction, and then use only thorium and U-233. Here the plutonium is completely consumed and this reactor is thus considered “proliferation resistant”. A Compact High Temperature Reactor also under development at BARC . This reactor is designed to work in closed spaces and remote locations.

Success in harnessing thorium’s potential is thus critical for the India’s future energy security.

India has put in place mechanisms for ensuring safety and security of nuclear facilities. The regulatory and safety systems ensure that equipment at India's nuclear facilities are designed to operate safely and even in the unlikely event of any failure or accident, mechanisms like plant and site emergency response plans are in place to ensure that the public is not affected in any manner. In addition, detailed plans, which involve the local public authorities, are also in place to respond if the consequences were to spill into the public domain. The emergency response system is also in a position to handle any other radiation emergency in the public domain that may occur at locations, which do not even have any nuclear facility.

Regulatory and safety functions of Atomic Energy in India are carried out by an independent body, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB). The AERB was constituted on November 15, 1983 by the President of India under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962 to carry out certain regulatory and safety functions under the Act. The regulatory authority of AERB is derived from the rules and notifications promulgated under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962 and the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986. The mission of the Board is to ensure that the use of ionizing radiation and nuclear energy in India does not cause undue risk to health and the environment.

India Needs Thorium Breeder Reactors

An effort is afoot in India and Russia to initiate research on developing small, sealed thorium breeder reactors for a wide range of uses throughout the world. The most interested party in this development is India, the most obvious reason being that India is a power-starved nation that has developed the entire nuclear-fuel cycle, including the thorium-fuel cycle, and while India is low in uranium reserves, it probably has the largest thorium reserves in the world.

But the plan to develop these reactors is not simply developing nuclear-based power sources. Large nuclear power plants are available all over the world, and even the Indian nuclear industry, under pressure from the industrial and urban sectors, is in the process of developing nuclear reactors with capacity upwards of 500MW.
Small Reactors in Clusters

But, 80% of India's population lives in rural areas, and almost 60% of the workforce depends on agriculture. A vast majority of India's water consumption is in the agricultural sector, and the entire population depends very heavily on annual monsoon rains, which can be extremely irregular, causing devastating droughts, which threaten India's food security. At the same time, India's coastline stretches about 3,570 miles on the mainland, from the border of Bangladesh in the Northeast to Gujarat in the Northwest. More than 600 million people live, bounded by an ocean on one side or the other. And, yet the vast majority of them lack safe, clean water.

The lack of power, massive shortfall of water, and the potential to pull millions out of poverty within the span of a generation, are the primary motivations behind the research on thorium reactors. These small thorium-fueled reactors, which would breed uranium-233 to generate power, can be placed all across power-short and water-short nations, and bring about a surge in economic development not seen before. The power from these small reactors will provide the power requirement for agriculture, small and medium-size industries, desalination of seawater and brackish water to make clean potable water, and also to meet the requirement of all commercial and domestic uses. The beauty of these reactors is that when power demands would grow, another one of these reactors can be placed to form a cluster.

The list of benefits of developing these small reactors by no means ends here. There are other benefits of significant dimensions. For instance, to set up these small reactors would require a reasonably small infrastructure, and since the power output will be commensurate with the local population and their activities, power generated from these reactors would be consumed locally. This would eliminate the 12-15% line losses that occur regularly when power is put on large and long grids, and prevent the instability produced in a crucial national electrical power grid, that results when a huge amount of power is dumped, or withdrawn, from that grid. Equally important is the fact that since these reactors are small, their construction and operation would not disrupt people's lives the way large infrastructure-based power plants do. The population living in the rural areas would be able to maintain their way of life, traditions, and environment, and at the same time, have a quality of life they could not have because of endemic shortfall of power and water.

Sealed Safe

But these reactors, now in the concept stage, are even more interesting. Since these reactors would be sealed "for life," removal of fissile material from the reactor core, enclosed within a tamper-proof cask, will not be possible. The whole system would be protected by a network of security alarms. These reactors generate power without requiring either refueling or maintenance. In contrast, conventional nuclear reactors are under constant attack of the anti-nuclear groupies who point at the potential threat of proliferation because these reactors must be charged periodically with new fuel, which later has to be removed for replenishment: both steps allow an opportunity for fissile material to be diverted to weapons programs.

The basic objective of the research is to develop a sealed reactor which will have a lifespan of about 30 years. At the end of this life span, the reactor would be buried in the same sealed condition. For these reactors to generate power without any outside intervention, the sealed reactor would need to be of the fast-breeder type. Thorium-232, a non-fissile material breeds fissile uranium-233, which is the desired breeder-fuel.

It is not clear at this early stage what exactly the overall configuration of these reactors would be. It is expected that the reactors would be small, about 10-15 feet in girth and about 45-50 feet in height. The weight could be as little as 200 tons. These reactors, once they become operational, would produce power uninterrupted for a generation. There will be no down time, since there will be no refueling involved. At Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Northern California, a similar project, using uranium-238 as fuel, is in progress. Known as the small, sealed, transportable, autonomous reactor (SSTAR), the machine will generate power without needing refueling or maintenance. To extend the reactor's life, the cylindrical core of the SSTAR will be engineered to sustain fission only when surrounded by a metal cylinder that reflects neutrons back into the fuel. This metal mirror will start at one end of the core, and over the course of the reactor's lifetime, move slowly along to the opposite end, consuming the fuel as it goes.

Clearly, the challenge in developing the thorium-fueled reactors would lie in getting the breeder to breed fissile uranium-233 continuously in such a way that it meets the power demand for three decades or so. The added challenge, of course, will be to compartmentalize the fuel so that uranium-233 becomes always available. To produce uranium-233, atoms of thorium-232 are exposed to neutrons. Thorium-233 forms when thorium-232 absorbs a neutron. Thorium-233 has a half-life of about 22 minutes and decays into protactinium-233 through beta decay. Protactinium-233 has a half-life of about 27 days and decays into uranium-233, also through beta decay. If completely burnt up through fission, one pound (0.45 kilograms) of uranium-233 will provide the same amount of energy as burning 1,500 tons (1,350,000 kilograms) of coal.

Towards an Energy Independent India

"Today,India is the only developing country that has demonstrated its capability to design, build, operate and maintain nuclear power plants,manufacture all associated equipment and components,and produce the required nuclear fuel and special materials,"
says Dr.R.Chidambaram, Chairman,Atomic Energy Commission , India.

The Indian Energy Scenario

India is a country occupying 2% of the world's land mass and currently generating about 2% of the global electricity, mostly using low grade coal of which it has about 5% of the world reserves.

India has, however a share of 16% in the world's population. To achieve a modestly high level of economic growth, the domestic generation capacity needs to be increased at least tenfold, to about 900 GWe. Even with full utilisation of all existing commercially exploitable domestic hydrocarbon, hydroelectric and non-conventional resources, this level of increased generation capacity cannot be sustained for more than a few decades. For a large country like India, bulk imports of fuel or energy are neither affordable nor strategically prudent.

The Role of Nuclear Power

The Indian Uranium reserves -about 0.8% of the world - cannot contribute to any significant improvement in the situation if this Uranium is used on once-through basis and then disposed off as waste. However, with a carefully planned programme, the available Uranium can be used to harness the energy contained in non-fissile thorium, of which India possesses about 32% of the world's reserves. The first stage of this programme involves using the indigenous uranium in Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) which efficiently produce not only energy but also fissile plutonium. In the second stage, by reprocessing the spent nuclear fuel and using the recovered plutonium in Fast Breeder Reactors, the non-fissile depleted uranium and thorium can breed additional fissile nuclear fuel, plutonium and uranium-233 respectively. In the third stage thorium and uranium-233 based nuclear reactors can meet the long term Indian energy requirements.

The Indian concerns and priorities are thus quite unique. For its long term energy security India has no option but to deploy nuclear power according to a strategy precisely tuned to its needs and resources.

Early History of Evolution of the Indian Nuclear Programme

Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha formulated this strategy nearly 40 years ago, when India possessed hardly any infrastructure to support the nascent nuclear technology. The first Prime Minister of India, Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru, helped Bhabha lay the foundations of the Indian atomic energy programme with self-reliance as the motto. Accordingly a large R & D establishment named Atomic Energy Establishment housed in Trombay, was progressively set up. This establishment, renamed Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) after India tragically lost Bhabha in an air crash in 1966, operates research reactors, basic facilities for nuclear research, supporting infrastructure and trained man-power in all disciplines dealing with nuclear energy.

The Indian nuclear power programme commenced in 1969 with the building of the twin units of Tarapur Atomic Power Station (TAPS), employing Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs), with American assistance. The reason for this choice lay in favourable performance guarantees for these reactors, and a need to quickly gain experience in running nuclear power plants.

The first two Indian PHWRs, RAPS-1, RAPS-2, were taken up for construction as a joint venture with Canada. In parallel, the Department of Atomic Energy set up facilities for fabrication of fuel, Zirconium alloy components, manufacture of precision reactor components, and production of heavy water. The import content of RAPS-1 was 45% and the half of its first core fuel charge was indigenously produced using high standards of quality demanded by the specifications. Commercial operation of RAPS-1 commenced in December 1973.

In the year 1974, after the peaceful nuclear experiment conducted by India at Pokharan, the Canadian support was abruptly withdrawn. RAPS-2 was under construction then. France too, followed suit by refusing to supply fuel for the Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) which was then under construction with French assistance. The USA expressed its inability to continue fulfilling its contractual obligations to supply fuel for TAPS. The era of technology control regimes had thus begun for the Indian nuclear programme.

Coping with the Pokharan Fallout

The sudden withdrawal of foreign technical assistance and supplies would have caused an irrecoverable set back to the Indian nuclear programme, if not its collapse. This did not happen on account of Indian determination to face the challenges head-on with the help of the R & D infrastructure already created to develop self-reliance, and the support of the Indian industry. The challenges included not only the continuation of the on going activities without external help but also the pursuit of the originally stipulated long term strategies.

To cut the long story short, while causing delays in some ongoing projects, the embargoes spurred the growth of an indigenous capability of developing substitutes for the denied products, technologies and knowhow. RAPS-2 started commercial operation in 1981; FBTR went critical in 1985, using indigenously made plutonium-uranium mixed carbide fuel. India also developed a plutonium-uranium mixed oxide fuel, and facilities for its industrial scale production, as an alternative to the enriched uranium based fuel for TAPS. India has not looked back since then, and has continued to proceed on its chosen path without depending on external help.

The Present and the Future

Today, India has ten nuclear power reactors in operation. The designs of its new reactors have progressively evolved to incorporate advanced features to further improve safety, reliability and economics.It has successfully developed the technologies for in-service inspection, maintenance and refurbishment of the older plants.Four PHWRs are currently under construction and another ten are planned for construction in the near future .These include the 500 MWe PHWRs fully designed and developed in India .Further, to accelerate the growth of nuclear power, it is contemplated to build a few light water reactor based plants with foreign collaboration.The immediate objective is to achieve 20,000 MWe of nuclear generation capacity by the year 2020.

Indian heavy water plants and zirconium alloy components manufacturing facilities have consistently met not only the domestic requirements but also export commitments.The Indian fuel fabrication facilities are capable of manufacturing a wide range of nuclear fuel based on natural uranium ,enriched uranium,plutonium , and uranium-233.Plants for treatment and disposal of various types of radioactive wastes have been set up and are operating as an integral part of every nuclear facility in the country .The fuel reprocessing facilities for extracting plutonium from spent fuel of the PHWRs are already operational.

Technologies associated with the fast reactor programme have been mastered .The indigenous efforts for the installation of first 500 MWe prototype FDR have begun and the design has been optimised .

India is an emerging leader in the development of reactor and associated fuel cycle technologies for Thorium utilization .A 30 KW(Th) research reactor KAMINI has become operational last year and is perhaps, one of its only kind in the world currently operating with uranium-233 based nuclear fuel .India's Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) which employs thorium based fuel , has several advanced passive safety features, and goes beyond the requirements generally stipulated for the next generation nuclear power plants, currently being developed.

Today, India is the only developing country that has demonstrated its capability to design , build , operate and maintain nuclear power plants, manufacture all associated equipments and components and produce the required nuclear fuel and special materials .With assured government support during the IXth Five Year Plan,which started this year the future of nuclear power in India is bright and ,in fact, the target of 20,000 MWe by the year 2020 is considered by some people in the Indian industry as conservative .

'Thorium to give India an edge'

Thorium Power is a privately-held, Washington DC-based company funded primarily through private equity investments. It develops proliferation-resistant nuclear fuel technologies. Seth Grae, president, Thorium Power, talks to ET about why thorium is the way forward for India.

Besides the fact that India has the second largest reserves of thorium, are there any other advantages for opting for thorium-based nuclear reactors rather than the uranium-based plants?
There are two major concerns when we talk of nuclear power — the first is that of safety and the second is the proliferation issue. On the aspect of safety, major nuclear companies like GE, Westinghouse, and Areva have addressed this issue. It is the proliferation angle that now needs to be addressed. For India, which has the largest thorium reserves in terms of quality, opting for thorium-based reactors is the logical step.

It is not merely an issue of fuel self-sufficiency but the fact is that it will also address the proliferation issue. Nuclear waste at a thorium-based reactor is minimal, and the plutonium from the process is used for further generation. It would make sense for India to opt for thorium rather than uranium.

Are there any other advantages for India to opt for the thorium fuel cycle?

Given India’s vast reserves of thorium, harnessing technologies that would use thorium-based nuclear fuels would give India an edge. The country could emerge as an exporter of thorium material or fuels made out of thorium. Also, given India’s massive power generating capacity expansion programme, opting for a thorium fuel cycle would make sense.

There are two types of thorium-based nuclear fuels — thorium and uranium and the other, thorium and plutonium. With the first, uranium, will come at a cost while plutonium comes free as it is a by-product of the process. The most dramatic savings happen if you use plutonium. However, fuel accounts for only 6% of costs of a nuclear plant. Indian scientists have already done work on thorium, that puts India in a favourable position.
Given thorium’s obvious advantages what accounts for its lack of popularity as a nuclear fuel?
The fact is that there has been little research and development in the nuclear fuel field. R&D in this area has been somewhere between flat and dead in the past 25 years. Thorium Power has an advantage as developing anything in the nuclear sector requires a long-time. Thorium Power’s work in the past will give it an edge over companies that are just about starting to explore this field.

What are your plans in India?

Thorium Power is the leading developer of proliferation-resistant nuclear fuel technologies. While working with Thorium Power designs will put India in a favourable position, we too stand to benefit from scientists in India to develop nuclear fuel for domestic consumption as well as for export.

What is the nature of association that you are looking at in India?

India has the potential to build at least 60 reactors of 1,000 megawatts each. India is already working on a plan to build dozens of new reactors in the coming years and the vast majority of them will be designed to use thorium fuels. We have found a lot of interest among all segments of the nuclear community here in the proliferation resistant, low-waste fuel technology that Thorium Power offers.

We are still exploring options, it could be in the nature of a technology transfer partnership or a joint venture. However, in international transactions things can develop fast. We may be in a position to announce a joint venture by the middle of next year. We are in dialogue with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India and NTPC as well as some major private sector companies.

How big do you estimate the Indian market to be?

Indian efforts in the nuclear power sector could lead to the award of contracts worth at least $100 billion. As I said, India has the potential to build at least 60 reactors of 1,000 megawatts each. At an estimated $2 billion per reactor, the potential for business crosses $100 billion.

Over and above this, there are business opportunities arising out of fuel supply and servicing contracts. Consider that 60% of business generated by new plants involves construction and equipment contracts and the balance to fuel processing technologies and safety services.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A Sting Without Venom

'Tehelka's multi-million enterprise has been greeted with circumspection bordering on derision'

Sting is suddenly a suspect, if not dirty, word. But till even just a few months ago this controversial method of procuring information was celebrated as the harbinger of a bold era, the defining characteristic of "new journalism". After the infamous Delhi schoolteacher episode, which turned out to be concocted, there is palpable discomfort with this genre. Sadly, for Tehelka's multi-million enterprise aimed at exposing Narendra Modi's alleged involvement in the 2002 post-Godhra riots, even their venture has been greeted with circumspection bordering on derision. Congress, the prime beneficiary of sting operations mounted by Tehelka, its offshoots and other copycats, has issued fervent disclaimers about its alleged sponsorship of the operation, privately suggesting this may have been funded by Modi! A failed sting is like a military coup gone awry: it is an orphan.

Why did Tehelka, the original promoter of this dubious genre of journalism, get it so horribly wrong this time? First, the timing of its public release was so transparently pegged to the Gujarat assembly polls that even breast-beating secular fundamentalists found it hard to defend. Having self-confessedly collected evidence over six months, the 'stingers' failed to convincingly explain why they waited for the poll dates to be announced and the Election Commission's model code of conduct to be operationalised. "Politically motivated" is a phrase routinely brandished by Indian politicians at the receiving end of adverse media publicity. But for once, this cliche hit the bull's eye.

Second, did the so-called sting establish anything that was not already in the domain of public knowledge? That certain bestial people on the Hindutva fringe indulged in gruesome forms of torture and murder was well-known and widely condemned. The bizarre, much-publicised twists in the Best Bakery case were sufficient to drive the point home. Significantly, however, the secular fundamentalists continue to pointedly ignore the fact that the poster boy of the Gujarat riot industry, the Muslim tailor photographed begging for his life with folded hands during the violence, has returned to his home state after a stint in 'secular' West Bengal, complaining of exploitation by CPI(M) for political gains. He now avoids publicity like the plague, saying he has no desire to play the role scripted for him by Gujarat-bashers.

Third, that TV channels, which reportedly paid a packet to Tehelka for telecast rights, ran disclaimers saying they were not responsible for the claims made by those interviewed, carries its own tale. Small-time, small-town politicians are known to exaggerate their importance given half a chance. That was my personal experience while conducting interviews in remote UP and Bihar districts with survivors of the Quit India Movement for my doctoral thesis for Oxford University. Their claims had to be routinely cross-checked to eliminate self-mythification. Talking to a reporter who posed as a Hindutva champion researching for a book on the saffron surge in Gujarat, these persons could well have given free rein to their grotesque fantasies.

But what is the worth of these "confessions"? Can they stand even cursory scrutiny in a court of law? So what did Tehelka aim at? As veterans of the burgeoning sting industry, having supplied call girls and Scotch to lubricate the wagging tongues of army officers in the defence expose, surely they knew that only a political motive could be served by their unsuccessful attempt to find a smoking gun in Narendra Modi's hand?

Fourth, did they find anything against Modi? After sending out lakhs of sms alerts for three days hyping the suspect end product, thus benefiting mobile service providers and the marketing departments of select TV channels, they couldn't find even a concealed revolver in Modi's pocket, leave alone a smoking gun.Modi never visited Naroda Patiya, site of a horrifying carnage, and thus the question of his garlanding the alleged mass murderers there simply did not arise. The post-mortem report said Congress ex-MP Ehsan Jafri died of three bullets lodged in his body. No limbs were cut one after another; neither was his torso "toasted", contrary to a chilling assertion by a prominent rioter. "Modi gave us three days," claimed yet another braggart. Self-righteous secularists argue: Modi is a demon, so whatever is said against him is true and if you want proof you are a communalist neo-Nazi!

Tehelka's disastrous misadventure doesn't need further elaboration. I can only feel sorry because they tried to be too clever by half and fell flat. Nothing justifies the burning alive of 52 kar sevaks at Godhra, and the retribution that followed. But just as Delhi recovered from the Congress-supervised anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984, so much so that Punjab twice elected that party to power in the state, so has Gujarat. This time, there is no trace of a communal cloud overhanging the forthcoming election. The only issue is Gujarat's spectacular economic development despite the devastating earthquake and the shocking riots. It is for the people of Gujarat to judge who are guilty of re-injecting the virus of communalism into the state's politics; who are friends of Muslims and who are their (hidden camera-carrying) enemies.

Source : Outlook India

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Dubrovnik, Croatia, The place we visited last weekend

Dubrovnik, often referred to as the 'Pearl of the Adriatic', lies on the picturesque Dalmatian coast and offers an eclectic mix of historical buildings, ancient traditions and modern café culture. Although severely damaged by an earthquake in 1667, Dubrovnik managed to preserve its beautiful Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque churches, monasteries, palaces and fountains.

Despite further damage in the 1990s by armed conflict, it is now the focus of a major restoration programme coordinated by UNESCO. Visit the Franciscan Monastery with its historic 15th century apothecary or the Dominican monastery, which houses paintings from the Dubrovnik school of art. Stroll along the cobbled paths and promenades and soak up the local atmosphere in one of the city's many pavement cafes.
George Bernard Shaw was enchanted by this beautiful city: for him, it was paradise. Millions of people also take home happy memories from this "jewel of the Adriatic".

Dubrovnik has a remarkable history. An independent, merchant republic for 700 years (abolished by Napoleon in 1806), it traded with Turkey and India in the East (with a consul in Goa, India) and had trade representatives in Africa (in the Cape Verde Islands). It even had diplomatic relations with the English court in the middle ages. (There is a letter from Elizabeth I on display in the City Museum in Dubrovnik). Its status was such that powerful and rich Venice was envious of this Croatian-Slav city.

The old town was completed in the 13th century and remains virtually unchanged to the present day. Tall ramparts surround it and there are only two entrances to the old town which lead to the Stradun, the city's promenade. One of the greatest pleasures for many visitors is to have a drink in one of the nearby cafes and watch the world go by, whilst they themselves are being watched by the city patron, St. Blaise, or Sveti Vlaho as the locals call him. In 1991/2, the Serbs shelled the city causing considerable damage, but thanks to local efforts and international aid, the old town has been restored to its former beauty.

Hotel Dubrovnik Palace
But whatever we say, our words do not give justice to this dazzling place. So come soon and see it with your own eyes!

Dubrovnik is a tranquil cultural and tourist center in Croatia,hosting many musical, art and theater events year round. The annual Dubrovnik Summer Festival is a cultural event when keys of the city are given to artists who entertain Dubrovnik's population and their guests for entire month with live plays, concerts, and games.

Ivan Gundulić, a 17th century Croatian writer, predicted the downfall of the great Turkish Empire in his great poem Osman. He wrote these immortal verses that are performed on every opening of the world famous Dubrovnik Summer Festival:

O, beautiful liberty, dear and sweet,
Thou heavenly gift where riches all meet,
Actual source of our glory of these hours,
The sole adornment of this grove of ours,
All silver, all gold, and our lives so dear,
Cannot recompense thy beauty so clear.

With these verses Dubrovnik major invites actors and poems to enter through main gates inside city stone walls.

Dubrovnik and his surroundings with beautiful islands have lot to offer in touristic activities for younger generations also. Climbing on steep hills, hiking through the Mediterranean nature, paddling and swimming in clean transparent sea is what is also part of fun in Dubrovnik.

New historical discovers say that the usual misconception of Dubrovnik coming to be as joining of Laus island and Slav settlement of Dubrovnik is disputed by the fact that there was no island of Laus, only a peninsula, and it seems that there was a port on its location dating back to ancient history (thought to be the lost port of Heraclea.)

In 1991 Croatia and Slovenia, which at that time were republics within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, declared their independence. In that event, the Socialist Republic of Croatia was renamed the Republic of Croatia.

Despite the demilitarization of the old town early in the 1970s in an attempt to prevent it from ever becoming a casualty of war, following Croatia's independence in 1991, the Serbian-Montenegrin remains of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) attacked the city.

On October 1, 1991 Dubrovnik was attacked by the JNA with a siege of Dubrovnik that lasted for seven months. The heaviest artillery attack happened on December 6 with 19 people killed and 60 wounded. Total casualties in the conflict according to the Croatian Red Cross were 114 killed civilians, among them the celebrated poet Milan Milisić. In May 1992 the Croatian Army liberated Dubrovnik and its surroundings, but the danger of JNA sudden attacks lasted for another three years.

Following the end of the war, the damage caused by shelling of the Old Town was repaired. Adhering to UNESCO guidelines, repairs were performed in the original style. As of 2005, most damage had been repaired. The inflicted damage can be seen on a chart near the city gate, showing all artillery hits during the siege. ICTY indictments were issued for the JNA generals and officers involved in the bombing.

General Pavle Strugar, who was coordinating the attack on the city, was sentenced to an eight year prison term by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for his role in the attack of the city.

See the Video of Attack on Dubrovnik, Croatia (a UNESCO World Heritage Site)