Sunday, July 19, 2020

How A Chinese Transfer Helped India Power It's Reactors - A One-Off Instance

Tarapur Atomic Power Station [TAPS] - Unit 1&2
The history of the Atom is replete with instances of unlikely "collabs". Nation States, who one, otherwise, wouldn't assume could get on the same page, have sprung surprises. The contrast appears much starker when one contextualises it against present-day realities, and historical baggage.
Faced with a depleting safeguarded Reactor fuel inventory, India sourced Uranium from China, to sustain electricity generation at it's Tarapur Atomic Power Plant [TAPP], located in the Indian State of Maharashtra.
"India is buying enriched uranium from China instead of reprocessing spent nuclear fuel to run its American-built atomic power plant, officials said today.
Indian government officials say India is buying enriched uranium from China to fuel the Tarapur Atomic Power Station (TAPS). The first batch of the uranium arrived from the China Nuclear Energy Corporation on January 5, 1995. According to the officials, the sale has been approved by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is expected to inspect TAPS to make sure it complies with safeguards protocols."
In 1994, France, who was supplying TAPP's Low Enriched Uranium [LEU] fuel, since 1983, ceased further supply. The US had brought in the French, to circumvent it's own National retrospective demands, it made post India's 1974 Pokhran tests. India described it as a "peaceful Nuclear explosion".
"The Pokhran test was a bomb, I can tell you now… An explosion is an explosion, a gun is a gun whether you shoot at someone or shoot at the ground… I just want to make clear that the test was not all that peaceful,"
The arrangement was to last till the end of the 30-year duration of the 1963 Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation Agreement India & USA had signed. By 1995, as a member of the NSG, France ratified compliance to full-scope safeguards. India, not being a signatory to, either, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty [CTBT] or the Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT], was precluded from transacting with NSG members. It has long contended that both Treaties were discriminatory. India's stand has aged like wine - they both roam the wilderness of irrelevance today. The India-United States Civil Nuclear Agreement of 2005 went some way to address this.

The US-supplied Tarapur 1&2 Units, operating Boiling Water Reactor [BWR] designs [BWR-1 (Mark 2)], were under safeguards of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA]. That allowed India look for sources who could still legitimately meet India's requirement. To go through with it, however, IAEA on-boarded India to supplementary safeguards [online viewer].
"Nuclear Material supplied by any State to India for use in the Tarapur Atomic Power Station which material is required by the Supplier State to be subjected to safeguard."
When India seeks secrecy, India achieves secrecy, despite what folks otherwise characterise as being 'as airtight as a sieve'.
"India's weekend announcement that it has received a shipment of enriched uranium fuel from China under a secret commercial contract has surprised international nuclear analysts.
The deal reflects the two Asian giants' desires to normalize relations, strained for nearly four decades by a bitter dispute over their long Himalayan border.
The contract has little military significance since the enriched uranium will be fabricated into fuel for a commercial nuclear power plant - the U.S.-built Tarapur station that supplies electricity to India's main industrial belt of Bombay. The fuel fabrication will combine Chinese uranium with Indian mixed oxide.
Politically, however, the deal is very significant. India's nuclear-weapons drive is propelled principally by concern over China, which has a burgeoning nuclear arsenal and remains the only country in the world still conducting atomic tests…..
….India, which has declined to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to keep its nuclear option open, turned to China for uranium after every other potential supplier-nation refused to sell it enriched fuel.
The Tarapur plant, as well as another commercial nuclear power station in northwestern Rajasthan state, are the only Indian atomic facilities open to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The 420-megawatt, twin-reactor Tarapur station was built by General Electric Co. under a 1963 U.S.-India nuclear cooperation agreement that required India to accept safeguards on the plant in return for assured American fuel supply.
After India detonated a nuclear device in the mid-1970s, the U.S. Congress passed a domestic law that unilaterally changed the terms of the agreement, commanding India to accept comprehensive IAEA inspections on all its nuclear installations.
The dispute brought Indo-U.S. relations under severe pressure until President Reagan circumvented the domestic legislation in 1982 by bringing in France as a substitute fuel supplier for Tarapur. The French fuel supply ended more than a year ago after the 30-year U.S.-Indian nuclear pact expired.
India, which threatened to lift the international safeguards on Tarapur at the end of the agreement unless the fuel supply continued, has voluntarily extended the inspections for an indefinite period. The Chinese uranium thus will also be subject to IAEA safeguards.
According to a Western diplomatic analyst, "The arrival of the first uranium shipment from China deflates earlier claims by India that it could run Tarapur entirely with its own mixed-oxide fuel. However, unlike previously when the plant was run entirely with foreign-supplied fuel, the Indians are employing a special blend with a high proportion of their own mixed oxide."
The uranium deal, details of which have not been released by Beijing or New Delhi, follows a series of other important political and military accords between the world's two most populous nations."
~ "Indian-Chinese deal startles analysts" The Washington Times, 11 January 1995
So, on January 5, 1995, India receive the first batch of LEU. It went on to purchase up to 30 MT of LEU from PRC. The buy, even then, raised quite a bit of eyebrows domestically, prompting it to issue a public clarification.
"Commenting on the first consignment of enriched uranium India received from China on January 5, 1995, Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC) Director A.N. Prasad says India is buying "only raw material and the rest of the processing including fabrication of fuel is done [at the Nuclear Fuels Complex] in Hyderabad." He remarks that India is buying enriched uranium from China to avoid using its unsafeguarded material at the Tarapur Atomic Power Station (TAPS), which is under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards."
~ India Buys Nuclear Fuel from China as Domestic Prices Costlier, Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 10 January 1995
Following the token spectacle of outrage, however, things quietened down. Nuclear matters in India tend to enjoy pan-political consensus. Coming under the direct purview of the PMO, also deters any regional political non-entity from being too much of a nitwit about it.
"An Indian scientist defended Tuesday the purchase of enriched uranium from China for the Tarapur nuclear power plant saying local fuel did not conform to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.
A.N. Prasad, director of an atomic research centre in Bombay, told the Press Trust of India that importing fuel which met with IAEA standards was necessary due to a pact signed between the IAEA and the US-built Tarapur power station.
"The voluntary October 1993 agreement was a confidence-building measure in which it was made clear that Tarapur could only use American, French or any other safeguarded fuel," he said.
"The choice of Chinese fuel was made after a careful study," Prasad, said, adding that it was cheaper than Indian enriched uranium.
"We are only buying the raw material from China (and) the rest of the processing is being done (in India)," said Prasad, director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Bombay
The first consignment of Chinese fuel for the twin reactors at Tarapur, located near Bombay, arrived at India's Nuclear Fuel Complex in the southern city of Hyderabad on January 5.
The Tarapur reactors, built in 1969 by General Electric, had initially received fuel from the United States and later France. The French contract to sell enriched uranium to Tarapur expired in October 1993 and was not renewed.
Atomic energy accounts for nearly three percent of India's power generation."
~ "India Defends Purchase of Enriched Uranium from China" Agence France Presse, 10 January 1995
China sold India Low Enriched Uranium. Proves money talks, walks, hops, skips, jumps. The latest fuel shipment for Tarapur, India sourced from Russia.
Uranium Ore Mines - India - 001
Mining the Ore, in India, is the responsibility of the Uranium Corporation of India Limited [UCIL]. Most of it is extracted from the Jaduguda mines, in Jharkhand. Andhra Pradesh, recently reported significant Ore presence in the Kanampalli region. Ore Quality & density, though, remains an issue, increasing extraction & enrichment costs. Strategic applications have no options, but to utilise domestically-sourced Uranium.
As a result, Indian Nuclear Power Plants [NPP] have, historically, operated it's Reactors below Rated Capacity.
With the signing of the 1-2-3 Agreement, global suppliers are now eligible to meet India's requirement. Today, July 18, 2020, in fact, is the 15th Anniversary of the signing of the historic agreement. Power Generation received a big impetus, due to India's ability to now source the fuel globally - Indian NPP currently operate at Capacity Factor of 83%, compared to the 50% pre-Agreement.
India, in turn, has made good of this relaxation, securing supplies from diverse global sources, improving Generation capacity of existing facilities. As of today, it appears to be the only tangible positive emerging out of the Agreement.
The Agreement also holds out the promise of setting up Nuclear Power Plants, of foreign design, across the country. It would help meet rising demands & mitigate chronic electricity shortages. However, Red & Green machinations have played no small part in stymieing forward movement. Plans still going strong, with promising targets.
The Nuclear Threat Initiative [NTI] & Wisconsin Project have exhaustively chronicled the events in India's Nuclear Programme. One can spend hours parsing the content there.