08 April 2007

Indian Heavy Water for USA

MUMBAI: As India and US struggle to hammer out a civilian nuclear agreement, some heavy water is quietly flowing between the two countries.

For the first time, India exported 4.4 metric tonnes of heavy water to an American firm Spectra Gases, headquartered in New Jersey with branches in the UK, Germany and Singapore.

Confirming the deal to TOI, Heavy Water Board (HWB) chief executive A L N Rao, said on Friday the consignment sailed from Mumbai on February 25 and was expected to reach US shores on March 23.

He, however, declined to say from which Indian atomic facility the heavy water was sourced. The capacity utilisation of all the heavy water plants till December 2006 was 113%.

Heavy water molecules have two atoms of the hydrogen isotope deuterium bonded with an atom of oxygen, making its properties slightly different from normal water which is H2O.

It's functions as a moderated in nuclear reactors which use unenriched uranium and helps stabilise the fast-paced and volatile chain reactions.

The development, according to the nuclear fraternity, indicates that tables have turned with India supplying a sensitive nuclear component to a major nuclear power like US. "Generally, it has been the other way round," remarked an atomic official.

"The quantity dispatched may be small. But the export of heavy water from India to US for the first time is very important and significant in view of the on going negotiations relating to the nuke deal," said Rao.

He said that the American firm imported heavy water from India because of its excellent quality and "highest purity" level. India is the world's second largest heavy water producer and has exported it to other countries.

India sold 100 tonnes of heavy water to South Korea in 1996 and 30 tonnes to China in June 2003. An official of HWB said India joined the heavy water export club in 1996, two years before its nuclear weapons test in May 1998.

"We are not a major player at the moment because the quantity we are exporting currently is not very big. We are, however, confident the demand from India will pick up in the coming years because of the excellent quality of our heavy water," he said.

Spectra, the US heavy water buyer carries out research in areas like fibre optics, medicine, semiconductors and also high purity gases for handling what is known as the equipment market.

N-Submarine May Be Operational By 2012

By Rajat Pandit 18 Mar, 2007 TIMES NEWS NETWORK

NEW DELHI: After a series of technical hiccups, India's long-running project to build nuclear submarines is finally gaining momentum. As per the revised target, the Navy is likely to get the first such operational submarine by 2012.

Sources said this was the "general assessment" at a top-level meeting to review progress of the hush-hush Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) programme on Friday, which was attended by defence minister A K Antony, among others.

Though official word is hard to come by on the secretive ATV project, which formally kicked off in 1983 but has made excruciatingly slow progress since then, it's learnt that the first prototype of the nuclear-powered guided-missile attack submarine would be "launched" in the "near future".

"And if there are no more hitches, the first of the two ATVs should be ready for being commissioned into Navy by 2011-2012. The overall project cost has been hiked by 30% to take it to around Rs 14,000 crore, with ultimately five ATVs planned by around 2025," said a source.

The work on the ATV project revolves around the Vishakhapatnam naval dockyard, where the basic submarine hull and structure are fabricated, and the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research at Kalpakkam, where PWRs (pressurised water reactors) for the submarine's propulsion system are tested.

One of the main reasons for the long delay has been the technical problem of designing and fitting a miniaturised PWR and its containment vessel in the submarine's hull. After the PWRs designed by Bhabha Atomic Research Centre failed to pass muster, India had turned to Russia for two 90-megawatt PWRs and related parts. There are also some Israeli, French and German imprints in the project.

"There were some problems with the integration of the Russian PWRs also. Work is now going ahead with a mixed design for the propulsion system," said the source.

The entire aim behind the ATV programme is to have nuclear-powered submarines, armed with nuclear-tipped cruise or ballistic missiles, to ensure "credible" second-strike capabilities in consonance with India's "no-first use" nuclear doctrine.

Nuclear-powered submarines have higher speeds and can stay submerged much longer than conventional diesel-electric submarines - which have to surface or snorkel frequently to get oxygen to recharge batteries - and thereby provide a much more invulnerable launch pad for nuclear weapons.

Though India already has nuclear-capable aircraft and mobile land-based missiles like Agni-I and Agni-II, it's hoped the ATV project will finally provide it with the third leg of the nuclear triad

Russia Waiting For Outcome Of N-Deal With US

From correspondents in Delhi

A decision on building four more new reactors at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu has not been postponed but Russia is waiting for the outcome of negotiations on the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, a top Russian envoy said Friday.

'We do not want to put India in a delicate and difficult position especially when talks are on. India has to fight on various fronts as it will also be keeping a close watch of the plenary of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in April,' said Russia's ambassador, Vyacheslav Trubnikov.

Interacting with a select group of reporters ahead of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of Indo-Russian diplomatic relations next month, Trubnikov said he was confident that the deal would go through.

'India is strong enough to persuade the other side. This negotiation will be successful,' he said.

During President Vladimir Putin's visit in January this year it was agreed that Russia would construct four more reactors at Kudankulam as well as more at other new sites.

Normally, the NSG - of which Russia is a key member - confines nuclear trade to NPT signatories. But India's record on non-proliferation has spurred countries like Australia, Russia and the USA to negotiate their own bilateral agreements to safeguard the use of nuclear materials and technology.

Trubnikov said he did not foresee the US attacking Iran over Tehran's nuclear programme.

'I do not think there is a serious legal basis to attack any other country in the world.'

In the recent past, Russia had persuaded Iran to be more cooperative with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and comply with its special protocol arrangements.

'Even during the visit of Ali Larijani, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, we tried hard to convince him. But the statements of the Iranian leadership have been confusing and contradictory and in the end it backtracked.'

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