Saturday, June 21, 2014

Uranium Enrichment at Ratnahalli: The Hindu Plays Mischief!

Nuclear powered INS Chakra

The Hindu today  reported that IHS Jane’s experts believe the expanded Uranium Enrichment facility at Ratnahalli is expected to become operational by mid-to late-2015, greatly increasing the availability of enriched uranium in India. While some of the increased production would be utilized for fueling Indian nuclear submarines (there are currently two), there would  be enough remaining for India to build more nuclear and thermonuclear bombs.

Karl Dewey, Proliferation Editor at IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review, told The Hindu, "The enrichment plant is primarily built to provide uranium for submarine reactors. However, there will now be significant excess capacity that could be used for other purposes, such as developing nuclear weapons."

I believe the news report at best reflects a lack of due diligence on the part of the The Hindu, and at worst a pandering to interests inimical to our nation. (The Hindu has in the past done some very dubious reporting on India's relations with China.)

The Hindu news is no news! In October 2011, the Institute for Science and International Security released a Google Earth image that showed what appears to be a new uranium enrichment facility at Ratnahalli. The Hindu has published a similar Google Earth photo in its news today!

The Hindu report bizarrely alleges that India has expanded its Uranium Enrichment facility at Ratnahalli secretly.

Ironically, during an interview with The Hindu in September 2010, Srikumar Banerjee, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), was asked:

Where will the enriched uranium for these boats come from? There is only one Rare Materials Plant at Ratnahalli, near Mysore, to produce enriched uranium. Will the proposed Special Material Enrichment Facility in Chitradurga district in Karnataka be helpful?

Banerjee replied: Chitradurga will come a little later, not immediately. Our Ratnahalli plant capacity has been enhanced. But more than that, there is significant improvement in our technology. Usually, a term called Separating Work Units (SWUs) defines the technology level that we have achieved in this, and I can assure you that there has been considerable improvement in SWUs of our next generation caskets of centrifuges. The separating capacity of our centrifuges has improved. So total capacity enhancement at Ratnahalli has been done. We are confident of supplying the entire fuel for the set of….

You cannot say anymore that India does not have enrichment technology. India has its own technology and we can produce [enriched uranium]. We have not started doing it for large-scale commercial nuclear power stations, which require a much larger quantity of enriched uranium. We will be able to do that once we go to Chitradurga.

Clearly, Banerjee was far from secretive about the Ratnahalli expansion. 

There is more! In an interview to CNN-IBN in December 2011, Dr Banerjee alluding to the expanded capacity of the Ratnahalli plant and reiterated that India will have enough HEU from Ratnahalli to fuel its nuclear submarine fleet.

Clearly, The Hindu is not revealing any secrets about the Ratnahalli.

But there are secrets The Hindu needs to reveal? For example, what is its motivation to rehash old allegations as new news?

IDP Sentinel members can read more at the link below.

Uranium Enrichment Program - IDP Sentinel