On July 18, 2005, President Bush met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the White House. The leaders announced several new areas of cooperation including commercial nuclear power. This is the first time since 1978 that the United States government has allowed nuclear technology sharing with India, the world’s most populous democracy. The chill began when India conducted a test nuclear explosion using material removed from a testing reactor.
India is a rapidly growing country with substantial energy needs. Though it has large coal supplies, it is one of the world’s largest oil and gas importers. In 2000, The Times of India reported, “OPEC is in the news again as the world holds its breath wondering whether output will be increased and oil prices decline from the current level of around $30 per barrel. Meanwhile, the oil import bill in India as in other major oil-importing countries, is straining the economy, with global oil prices having almost trebled in the past two years.” Yesterday, the Nymex crude oil index closed at $57.10 per barrel, a level that is causing even more straining, especially since India’s oil consumption continues to increase.
India has been working (on and off again) for more than 15 years on a complex natural gas pipeline deal to enble it to buy gas from Iran. That deal requires cooperation with Pakistan, its neighbor and longtime enemy. Here are some articles that have been published over the years about that deal:
- Not a pipedream: back to Iran gas pipeline option R K Pachauri, The Times of India, 17 August 2000
- Analysis: Iran-Pakistan-India Gas Pipeline Imperiled
- India, Pakistan Begin Talks on Gas Pipeline from Iran
The country has been working on developing its nuclear power industry for more than forty years. India has developed an indigenous Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) design and has several projects in progress. Its first 540 MWe PHWR at Tarapur, Haharashtra achieved initial criticality in March, 2005. India also has the world’s second largest deposits of thorium, which can be used as fuel in fission reactors.
The nuclear power cooperation deal with America will play an important role in continuing to diversify the Indian energy supply system away from dependence on imported oil and gas.