U.S.- India Nuclear Agreement Seminar


Georgia Tech Seminar- August 7, 2008

By Devika Rao


The United States- India Nuclear Cooperation Agreement has the whole world turning its heads to see what the outcome of a deal between a dominating world power and fast-rising nation is going to be and what it means for the rest of the world.  On August 7, a seminar and discussion held at The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta brought together experts in fields of nuclear engineering and international trade to give the audience both sides of the story.

A diverse audience comprised of nuclear engineers whose firm builds nuclear reactors, a former diplomat, to local citizens hungry for more information allowed for an engaging group discussion and involvement.  Three speakers who broke down the complicated and confusing deal for all those there presented the basics of the agreement to help understand the politics of it all.

Dr. Geoffrey Eichholz, an Emeritus Regents Professor of Nuclear Engineering at Georgia Tech, explained that this pact holds importance because India’s current reactors are significantly small powering at 200 MW giving the United States a considerable notion for investment.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, one of the many advantages that this deal has is the idea that U.S. companies will be allowed to build nuclear reactors in India and provide fuel for its civilian energy program.  Dr. Anupam Srivastava, Director of the Asia Program at the Center for International Trade and Security at The University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens, noted that India’s total energy production is 126,000 MW and the demand is 160,000 MW.  “India is the sixth largest consumer of energy in the world, and with this pact, the U.S. and India are working toward a technology-embedded strategic partnership,” says Srivastava.

He went on to advise that with this deal, the two world players will be engaging in a technology that can be transferred and co-produced to benefit a number of missions such as a maritime security, counterterrorism, securing sea-lane communications and much more.  With this deal, Srivastava goes on to add that with foreign reactors that would be built, it would reduce the energy prices and raise the bar for Indian production units.

India also has the largest defense budget in the world, according to Srivastava, which would make room for U.S. based firms such as Lockheed, Boeing to get contracted out. According to the South Asia Analysis Group, a foreign contract could garner the U.S. with contracts worth $15-20 billion, as India would import technology and hardware for the building of these foreign reactors.  In the same context, this deal could prove beneficial as members from ___ were at the seminar noting that they compete for foreign contracts with Europe.

Dr. Seema Gahlaut, the director for Training and Outreach at UGA’s Center for International Trade and Security added that India refused to be a part of the Non-Proliferation Treaty because of its discriminatory regulations of the five super powers. She went to add that many have questioned about the relations of the countries only being harbored through a nuclear agreement, and the opposed players of this deal ask why it is not possible to have good nuclear relationship.  Gahlaut said that under a U.S. law, the country cannot share advanced technology with India as it is defined as a “problem country” thus why the United States is pushing this deal because the whole country is not the problem.

Deal or no deal, India will expand their nuclear agenda, added Gahlaut. With the deal, the nation will buy more reactors, but without the deal, it will just build more reactors which will not be placed under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency, one of the major players in this agreement.

The speakers engaged in their perspectives as Srivastava and Gahlaut pointed out the benefits of going through with this ground-breaking pact, while Eichholz stated that the signing of this agreement will be merely symbolic with added IAEA inspections, but emphasized that India should depend on foreign help of building reactors.

Due to the lack of time, a passionate debate could come to proper form, but moderator John McIntyre, professor of International Business and Executive Director of the Georgia Tech Center for International Business Education and Research Center, noted, appropriately so, that a “nuclear Pandora’s box” had been opened and every agency involved is at  a crossroads.  

At the conclusion of the event, Srivastava added that although the French and Russians have similar deals penned with India, it is in the United States best interest to ratify this treaty as it came first and wants to finish what it started

A second debate will be scheduled in the weeks after Congress reconvenes in September involving more groups of similar interests.

For more information on the U.S. - India Nuclear Deal, please vist www.cfr.org .