Sandeep Dikshit

“Government mounting disinformation campaign to push deal”

Natural gas from Iran will insulate India from oil price shocks

Power shortage can be removed by building coal-fired plants

NEW DELHI: The Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Saturday accused the government and the Congress leadership of mounting a “massive disinformation campaign” to push the nuclear deal, which “is a cover to promote strategic ties with the U.S.”

Making a point-by-point rebuttal of the government’s arguments in favour of the deal, the CPI(M) said it was difficult to directly promote India-U.S. strategic ties, hence “the recourse to false claims that nuclear energy will at one stroke reduce not only our oil consumption but also remove our power shortages.”

Pipeline project

The party said that over half of India’s oil consumption was in the transport sector and a negligible quantum was used in power plants. On the other hand, natural gas from Iran would insulate India substantively from oil price shocks. Still the government had been dragging its feet on the Iran gas pipeline project at the behest of the U.S. and in consideration of the Hyde Act.

On power shortages, the CPI(M) pointed out that the real problem lay in starving the power sector of public investments. Capacity additions in the Eighth, Ninth and Tenth plans were less than the augmentation in the Seventh Plan. Besides, even if the nuclear deal was signed now, it would take about eight years for imported reactors to get operational and these would cost three times more than coal-fired plants. As a result, the cost of electricity from nuclear plants would be twice that generated from coal-fired units. The primary fuel, uranium, was controlled by a small international cartel, as a result of its price had gone up by five times in the last few years. The quickest and cheapest way of removing electricity shortage was to build coal-fired plants, which take half the time required by nuclear plants, the CPI(M) said.

Nuclear energy for future

At the same time, the party pointed out, nuclear energy had an important place in India’s energy option and this route must be kept open for the future. However, this should be based on indigenous technology and sources to ensure energy security.

But the government was “highlighting a temporary shortage of uranium fuel and painting it as a permanent one.” The fact was it did not invest in expanding the existing uranium mines or opening new mines. Worse, one existing mine was closed. “It appears that the spectre of uranium shortage has been created only to push a deal that is not in India’s national interest.”

Even in the most optimistic scenario projected by the government, nuclear energy would at best meet only eight per cent of the electricity demand and about four per cent of the total primary energy demand, the CPI(M) said. “While the nuclear option should be kept open for the future, it has little importance for meeting our immediate energy needs.” The nuclear deal “is not about India’s energy security. Energy security lies in using indigenous energy resources such as coal and ensuring our future energy supplies from Iran and other countries in west and central Asia.”

The CPI(M) said: “Obviously, augmenting indigenous coal production, investing in oil exploration, securing gas supplies through the Iran gas pipeline are much more important for India’s energy security than buying imported reactors and uranium. Energy security does not lie in helping a moribund U.S. nuclear industry to sell us billions of dollars of reactors, which nobody is buying in the U.S.”

The party said: “Mythical energy claims are being made in order to promote a bad nuclear deal. Energy is just a cover. The real intent is India-U.S. strategic ties.”

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