By Barkley Rosser
A front page story in WaPo today reports that the proposed agreement between the US and India for the US to assist in providing fuel for civilian nuclear power plants in India may be going down due to opposition from leftist parties in India to India becoming "too close" to the US, although the right-wing BJP has also joined in opposing this agreement (the leftists are in the coalition government, the BJP is not). This is true on the surface, but the report leaves out important details. One is that the US has been pressing India not to build a natural gas pipeline to Iran, long an ally (neither is too fond of Pakistan), which feeds the complaints of the opposition. Also, there has been opposition in the US over India violating the Non-Proliferation Treaty by actually building nuclear weapons, with vague US pressure on that issue also raising hackles in India.
The further wiggle on this not covered in the story is that many nuclear scientists in India also oppose the plan because they see it bringing to an end India's efforts to develop an alternative, independent, cheaper, and safer nuclear technology, thorium reactors, while putting India into a dependent position on the US for nuclear fuel. Beyond this, failure of this agreement may well make far more difficult any meaningful effort to restrain global carbon emissions over the next few decades. The thorium tech is not really ready to go. India will be massively increasing its electricity production potential over the next couple of decades, no matter what anybody says. Given its poverty, they are only going to go for the cheapest available "off the shelf techs." The hard bottom line is that those alternatives for India in a serious way are coal or nukes (although natural gas from Iran might help a bit). Failure of this agreement may mean that they will go with coal, and that will be that, too bad for the world with respect to global warming.