U.S.-India Nuclear Deal: Reckless on Every Score

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The security risks from the nuclear cooperation agreement reached yesterday between President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh far outweigh the energy benefits of the deal, according to researchers at the Worldwatch Institute. Spending the same money on new, clean energy options would provide energy without increasing the risk that terrorists will get their hands on nuclear arsenals.

Proponents claim that nuclear power will be India's ticket to economic prosperity in this energy-starved country of 1.1 billion people. But according to Worldwatch's State of the World 2006 report, "Renewable energy resources such as solar, wind, and biomass are far more practical energy options for China and India. Both countries have vast land areas that contain a large dispersed and diverse portfolio of renewable energy sources that are attracting foreign and domestic investment as well as political interest."

Nuclear power provides only 3 percent of India's electricity today, and even if the 30 new nuclear plants the government hopes to build are actually completed over the next two decades (India has consistently fallen short on its past nuclear ambition), nuclear would still provide only 5 percent of the country's electricity and 2 percent of its total energy.

"It would be ironic if Congress were to support this agreement, given the scrutiny that has been given to the Dubai ports deal," said Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin. "The security vulnerabilities that would be exposed by undermining non-proliferation at a critical time are unacceptable. It's going to be tough to argue that Iran and North Korea should be denied nuclear technology while India--which has failed to even join the Non-Proliferation Treaty--is given the same technology on a silver platter."

"Nuclear power is a high-cost technology with limited ability to meet the electricity needs of either India or the United States," continued Flavin. "Nuclear power is a dying industry, and this latest effort to prop it up with government support is unlikely to overcome growing resistance by Wall Street investors and the bond market."

Globally, the nuclear construction business has been in decline for more than two decades. Worldwide, nuclear power is growing at an average rate of less than 1 percent per year. By contrast, renewable energy--wind, solar, and biofuels--is on a growth surge, averaging annual expansion rates of 25-35 percent, as President Bush noted enthusiastically in speeches in Colorado and Michigan last week. Total investment in the world's renewable energy sector reached $30 billion in 2004, according to the Renewables 2005: Global Status Report.