Nuclear power is a large-scale energy-producing technology that can be used for both civil and military purposes. In 1974, India conducted a nuclear weapons test, at Pokhran, Rajasthan, becoming the first ever country outside the member nations of the United Nations Security Council to do so. When other countries opposed to the nuclear test, in 1974 the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was formed as an export control regime amongst nuclear supplier countries in order to keep a check on the international nuclear proliferation through implementation of two sets of Guidelines, one for nuclear exports and the other for nuclear-related exports. Amongst these, membership of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which puts restrictions on conducting any further nuclear tests, is only a guiding principle and not a mandatory requirement while deciding on a country’s application for membership at NSG. For instance, France, a non-signatory of NPT, was made a member of NSG.
Joining the NSG will give India better access to low-cost, clean and renewable nuclear energy which is essential for its economic growth and for which a unanimous approval of all 48 members is a prerequisite. But India could manage to get support only from countries like USA, UK, Switzerland, Japan and few others whereas other member nations like Turkey, Ireland, Austria and New Zealand have opposed its entry into NSG.
Until now, the non-renewable process of nuclear power generation involved burning of radioactive heavy metals such as uranium which is not very abundant on earth and burning of fossils, which resulted in emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. With the aim to combat climate change, in the year 2014, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) came up with a next-generation nuclear reactor which would process the nuclear power in a renewable and environment friendly manner by using thorium-plutonium as its fuel, instead of uranium and fossils. India is rich in thorium reserves but lacks other natural resources such as plutonium which has to be imported. Moreover, the use of nuclear power plants to generate electricity will reduce the use of coal-fired power plants, which will result in reduction of air pollution. But for this, it is essential that India gets recognition at NSG as a member.
NSG membership would provide India the following advantages:
- A platform to propose the idea of plutonium trade for its clean and green nuclear energy programme. An early adoption of thorium technology would give India enormous energy independence and security. It will also give India access to technology, know-how, equipments and materials required for setting up of nuclear power plants.
- With access to advanced and eco-friendly technology and know-how, India will be in a position to give effect to its Make in India programme by commercializing the manufacture of nuclear power equipments. This will encourage innovation and efficiency in manufacture of high technology and low cost equipments.
- While importing the foreign technology and equipments, India could also export its indigenous technology and expertise on peaceful and safe use of nuclear energy to member nations of NSG. This would prove to be beneficial for other nations and revenue generating for India.
The Indian Lawyer