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A. Batra and P. Nelson, "Safety, Safeguards, and Security in Indian Civil Nuclear Facilities," NSSPI Report, NSSPI-12-010 (2012).


Executive Summary

There have recently been many calls, especially from within the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), for states interested in civil nuclear energy programs not only to focus upon the "3Ss" of safety, safeguards and security, but to exploit commonalities between these important concerns in order to make this focus practically realizable. Much of the emphasis upon the 3Ss has occurred within the context of states having or considering developing new civil nuclear programs. The study described in this report considers the issue of integrating the 3Ss for the unique case of India, as a state that has long had a civil nuclear energy program, but which has only recently become well integrated within the international market for nuclear materials and technology.

This study begins with a review of calls for achieving synergies between the 3Ss, as arising from the IAEA and elsewhere, along with reasons for India to be interested in such synergies. India plans sharp expansion of its domestic nuclear-power industry, based upon imports of uranium enabled by its 2008 agreement with the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and has an announced intent to export some of its considerably developed pressurized heavy-water reactor technology. If synergies among the 3Ss could increase economy and efficiency for civil nuclear energy, that could be very helpful to India in either domestic expansion or export. The present study identifies, at a very high-level, the opportunities and challenges that exist in this regard for India, especially in view of the foreseeable changes in the nuclear energy enterprise within India. The challenges stem partially from the current administrative organization of the nuclear enterprise within India, but also from generic difficulties inherent in achieving synergies among the 3Ss.

The general understanding of the 3Ss, and the administrative structure supporting efforts in each of these areas individually, is reviewed, for both the IAEA (Section 2) and India (Section 3). There appears to be few fundamental differences in the respective approaches to the 3Ss individually, although there is a paucity of openly available literature from the Indian Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) regarding its efforts in either safeguards or security. In fact, much of the current motion in India toward restructuring the organizational responsibility for regulation of the civil nuclear enterprise seems based on criticism of lack of public communication by the DAE on even nuclear safety, which is viewed globally as the 'S' for which transparency is by far the most desirable.

Notwithstanding this criticism, India has a good record in nuclear safety; however, its experience with safeguards is limited to cooperation with the IAEA for the limited number of Indian nuclear facilities procuring internationally supplied fuel or technology. Further, although India has some activity on nuclear security, its key organization in this field, the Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership, is newly announced and as yet scarcely functioning.

Availability of IAEA assistance and guidelines in meeting the challenge of coordinating the 3Ss at the facility design level is reviewed from the open literature. Although a great deal of optimism is expressed in various publications of the IAEA, a substantial review of various possibilities fails to identify concrete instances of application. Within the DAE there appears to be little consideration, at least in the open literature, of synchronizing the Ss. Underneath this lack of initiatives there are real technical challenges associated to achieving significant synergies among the 3Ss at the level of either facility design or system operation. Many of these challenges, along with possible specific measures to address them, are identified. Some of them take the form of tensions among the 3Ss; that is, measures that improve one of the Ss may have the potential for a negative impact upon another.

The following are the key conclusions and recommendations resulting from the study:

  • The potential for synergies among the 3Ss to bring significant benefits to the Indian civil nuclear energy program, both domestic and export, has long been recognized by senior officials in the DAE.
    • For one example, in his statement to the 46th IAEA General Conference (2002), then DAE Secretary Dr. Anil Kakodkar observed that the IAEA International Project on Innovative
      Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles "is the most appropriate and timely activity to overcome barriers to growth of nuclear power ... (and) ... such technological solutions are the need of the hour and provide superior, cost effective and comprehensive alternatives to the current segmental approach of dealing with technology, safety and safeguards separately."
    • For another, in his paper for the Second International Conference on Asian Nuclear Prospects (ANUP 2010), Dr. S. K. Jain, Chairman and Managing Director of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India, Ltd., noted that "the proliferation risks associated with nuclear power make it inevitable that the cooperation (within the Asian region, on nuclear power) has to be in accordance with the IAEA safeguards mechanism, with monitoring of all nuclear activities."
    • Both a division of regulatory authority across the 3Ss and what some perceive as an unusually high degree of reliance on opacity in the Indian nuclear program could constitute significant impediments to realization of any possible benefits from synergies among the 3Ss.
  • No instances were found (globally) of significant new advances in realizing synergies that demonstrably offer net cost benefits across the life cycle of civil nuclear facilities, and there are major unresolved technical challenges associated to achieving such benefits.
    • Some of these challenges are analytic, such as developing a methodology for rationally choosing between benefits across the 3Ss (e.g., in facility design), for which benefits currently are denominated in incommensurate terms.
    • For another challenge, technical demonstration of the possibility of dual yet secure use of equipment, especially communications equipment, for control and accounting of nuclear material, could have significant mutual benefits for both safeguards and security.
    • Ultimately it will be necessary to obtain experience with one or more civil nuclear facilities to be constructed (or modified) to obtain tangible experience in the specifics of exploiting synergies and dealing with tensions among the 3Ss in the design and operation of facilities.
    • In order to enable any serious effort to capitalize upon synergies among the 3Ss in the design of nuclear facilities it likely will be necessary to execute a multiyear multistep research program having components of both analytic development and testing of proposed analytic methodologies in the design and construction of actual facilities.
  • The history, capabilities and current intentions of India's nuclear program place it in a unique position to address these technical challenges, and thereby move toward meaningful design-level and facility-operation synergies among the 3Ss.
    • For one example, the international community could consider attempting to engage the considerable mathematical and computational modeling skill resident in the DAE and associated institutions toward developing methodologies for technologically neutral evaluations of the proliferation resistance afforded by various approaches to safeguards.
    • For another, the international community conceivably could benefit from a better understanding of India's experience in applying root-cause analysis to improve counter-terrorism efforts.
    • As an ultimate step in a multiyear research and development program as envisioned above, India could contemplate possible advantages in its efforts to sell indigenous nuclear technology on the international market that might stem from offering the "new national reprocessing facility dedicated to reprocessing safeguarded nuclear material under IAEA safeguards" mentioned in the Indo-US 123 Agreement as a test bed for design-level implementation of synergies among the 3Ss.

See Document

Associated Project(s):

  • Technical Analyses of the U.S.-India Nuclear Accord

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