Canada-India Nuclear Pact
Imminent Canada-India nuclear pact heightens tensions
Impending deal could be worth billions for Canadian industry, but it has already become a source of concern in Pakistan
by Graeme Smith, The Globe and Mail, June 25, 2010
An imminent deal that would open the door for Canadian exports of
uranium to India, could add to nuclear tensions in South Asia, some
The impending agreement made front-page news this week in India,
amid speculation Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Canada
for the G20 summit will allow him to sign a long-awaited nuclear
The deal could be worth billions for Canadian industry and would
formally end the mistrust that followed India’s nuclear test in 1974,
when it became apparent that India had misused a Canadian research
reactor to obtain weapons-grade plutonium.
Some experts on nuclear technology say the new deal could repeat
history, however, with Canada unwittingly adding to the nuclear
tensions in the region by easing India’s shortage of uranium.
“They’re not going to say this is for weapons, but they’re unlikely to
rule it out,” said M.V. Ramana, a researcher at Princeton University.
Any such civil nuclear deal would include safeguards to prevent the
exported uranium from being used for military purposes, Mr. Ramana
said, but Canada’s supply would leave India free to use more, or all,
of its own domestic uranium for weapons. The country is believed to
produce about 300 to 450 metric tonnes annually, which Mr. Ramana
estimated would be enough to make at least 60 Hiroshima-sized bombs.
The supply of uranium isn’t the only factor limiting the size of India’s
nuclear stockpiles, but observers say any shift in production capacity
could affect the military balance. The Federation of American
Scientists estimates India’s arsenal at 60 to 80 warheads, and
Pakistan’s at 70 to 90; their bitter rivalry is widely regarded as the
world’s most dangerous nuclear standoff.
India has already shown a degree of restraint by making fewer weapons
than it could, and there is no indication that New Delhi will actually use
Canada’s supply of uranium as an opportunity to expand its arms program.
Still, the deal has already become a source of concern in Pakistan.
“This gives India the ability to build bigger stockpiles, which is a problem
for Pakistan,” said Achin Vanaik, a professor of international relations at
Others say India is more interested in building its economy than its
arsenals. Hungry for electricity, the country plans to have 12 new
reactors running by 2020, consuming an extra 1,500 tonnes of uranium
per year. Other projects are expected, making India’s civilian nuclear
sector worth $25-billion to $50-billion over the next 20 years.
“This is a golden opportunity for Canada,” said Chaitanyamoy Ganguly,
president of Cameco India. A well-known former official from the
International Atomic Energy Agency, Dr. Ganguly now serves as the only
employee at the India branch office for Canada’s uranium giant.
Cameco’s operations in India won’t stay small for very long, Dr.
Ganguly said, as Canada could soon be exporting 2,000 tonnes of
uranium to India annually. Canada has a natural advantage over its
competitors in the Indian market, he said, because many of India’s
reactors are based on Canadian CANDU technology. Cameco will be
further helped by the fact that Australia, a major supplier of uranium,
has so far refused to sell to India until it signs the Nuclear
Dr. Ganguly brushed off concerns that a greater supply of uranium
might allow India to build its nuclear arsenal.
“Those days are gone,” he said. “We’re not so stupid.”