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Ingmar Lee Online

The Smiling Buddha Blast & Canada’s CANDU Snafu

published in briarpatch magazine 

In a May 20, 1974 interview, CBC reporter Barbara Frum asked India’s UN Ambassador Samar Sen if India did not violate some agreements with Canada in developing and detonating an atomic bomb. Ambassador Sen’s response was that India did not develop an atom bomb.

“What did it develop, then?” Frum asked.

Sen’s response: “India just exploded an atomic device, nothing to do with a bomb. It is just one of the processes which is necessary for using atomic energy. How did you get the idea for an atom bomb?”

In 1956 Canada provided India with a 40 megawatt “Canadian-Indian Reactor, U.S.” (CIRUS) research reactor near Mumbai. The United States supplied the heavy water necessary to control nuclear fission. In 1959 Canada sold a 125-megawatt nuclear reactor to Pakistan and then in 1964, sold them a “CANada Deuterium Uranium” (CANDU) reactor. In 1971, Canada constructed a 137-megawatt CANDU heavy-water nuclear reactor at Karachi, Pakistan. Canada also included heavy water and a heavy water production facility as part of the deal.


Smilin' Buddha Blast Crater in Rajasthan

Three years later, in 1974, India exploded its first nuclear device, nicknamed the “Smiling Buddha,” at Pokhran, Rajasthan, using plutonium from the CIRUS reactor. Turns out, Canada’s reactors are just great at producing weapons-grade plutonium. Canada did not bother to ask India to comply with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards nor for any accounting of the amount of plutonium the CIRUS produced. India claims that its agreement with Canada did not preclude the use of CIRUS-produced plutonium for “peaceful” nuclear explosions. India described its Smiling Buddha blast as a “Peaceful Nuclear Explosion,” but predictably, as soon as Pakistan saw that India had the Bomb, it put its shiny new CANDU reactor to work developing its own nuclear weapons. Canada is clearly a major proliferator of nuclear weaponry and is completely complicit in the nuclear arming of both Pakistan and India.

On May 11 and 13, 1998, India carried out five nuclear tests at Pokhran. Two weeks later, on May 28 and 29, 1998, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced that Pakistan had conducted five nuclear tests at its base in Baluchistan and had “settled the score with India.” The people of the world can thank Canada for this most dangerous nuclear brinkmanship parlay ever. With its monumental stupidity exposed for all the world to see, after India’s 1974 blast Canada slunk out of the India CANDU project leaving Indian scientists to handle, maintain, repair and operate the nukes on their own. Canada abruptly stopped supplying uranium to Pakistan in 1976, and then slunk out of its Pakistan project. If India and Pakistan ever nuke it out, or if ever those CANDUs should snafu, Canada will have an horrific culpability on its hands.

How Could Canada Do That?

Canada’s nuclear program has been run since its inception in 1952 by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) which is “a fully integrated nuclear technology and services company providing services to nuclear utilities worldwide.” AECL’s mandate is to create customer and shareholder value through:

  • Managing the Canadian nuclear platform responsibly and cost effectively.
  • Leveraging the technology base to deliver nuclear products and services to market.
  • Paying dividends from profitable growth.

In January of this year Energy Probe refuted this preposterous bunch of bularky by revealing that AECL is a massive subsidy-sucking corporate welfare fraud that is responsible for fully 12% of Canada’s total debt. According to Tom Adams report, $74.9 billion of the Canadian federal debt is directly attributable to tax-payer funded subsidies provided to the AECL. One wonders what post-CANDU meltdown lawsuits might add to this bill.

Virtually all of India’s nuclear scientists and dozens of their Pakistani counterparts, including “the Godfather of Pakistan’s Bomb” and notorious nuclear proliferator, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, were trained and hosted by AECL. In 1996, Y. S. R. Prasad, chairman and managing director of India’s Nuclear Power Corp. (NPCIL), visited two nuclear reactors in Ontario, and over the years Canadian scientists have also been visiting Indian reactors. The official line is that none of the information shared helped India develop its bombs. “Our scientists and your scientists are sensible fellows,” said Prasad, while visiting the Canadian reactors. “We are human beings. We are not politicians. We want what is good for humanity.”

Bush Gets Involved

George “Newkewlar” Bush travelled to India in March to finalize the July 18, 2005 “landmark” nuclear agreement he had begun negotiating with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. India is a non-signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has used its civilian power plants to build nuclear weapons. Because India has not signed the NPT, as per the US Atomic Energy Act, Bush cannot legally trade nuclear material to India. But their agreement intends to single out India as an exception to the rule. Part of the deal is contingent on the separation of India’s deeply intertwined military and civilian nuclear programs. India will now identify several ‘civilian’ nuclear installations and open them up for international inspection, but its military nuclear projects will remain secret and will continue to produce nuclear weaponry, clearly a violation of everything the NPT represents. To ratify the deal, Bush will have to persuade the US Congress to change the US Atomic Energy Act that prohibits trade in nuclear technologies with non-members of NPT. Bush’s Orwellian PR spinmeisters are now working at full twist to swing the deal. Further complications have arisen from the asinine recent diplomatic blunders issuing from the American Ambassador to India, David Mulford.

In December, Mulford created an uproar when he threatened that Washington would pull out of the historic nuclear deal if India did not vote against Iran at the subsequent IAEA meeting, which is nothing but a sham for Bush’s ramp-up to a seemingly imminent attack on Iran. India’s Ministry of External Affairs summoned Mulford to their office where Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran asked him to clarify his remarks. Expressing his sincere regrets, Ambassador Mulford said he ‘had been taken out of context’. Mulford’s comments sparked off a huge diplomatic row with former Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee describing the remark as outrageous and undiplomatic and the Left terming it an insult to the nation. In a statement, Vajpayee said: “It violates all diplomatic norms. Ambassadors are not required to make personal remarks denigrating their host country.” Subsequently, Mulford set off another firestorm by his protest letter to West Bengal Chief Minister, M Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee for his characterization of George W Bush as a leader of the “most organised pack of killers” on the planet.

Why would India put all its eggs in the Nuclear basket?

Currently, the vast bulk of India’s power, ~68%, is produced by burning coal, with petroleum and natural gas kicking in another 25%. India’s civilian nukes provide less than 3% of its total power consumption. The plan is to boost production of power to 20,000 megawatts by 2020, and to raise the nuclear contribution to 12%. But India, Iran and Pakistan have been working to develop a $4 billion, 2600 km. natural gas pipeline between Iran’s South Pars gas field, across the Pakistani state of Balochistan to India. This “Peace Pipeline” could deliver far more than 20,000 megawatts into India’s power grid, and more importantly, would deliver an enormous Peace benefit to the troubled region. Bush has now put the kaibosh on that idea.

The operation of the pipeline would require excellent and respectful relations which are sorely needed to counter the belligerent nuclear brinkmanship which continues between Pakistan and India. But any pipeline deal between India, Pakistan and Iran contradicts Bush’s twisted vision of stability for the region, which is apparently, to attack and destroy Iran’s civilian nuclear projects, which are, by the way, fully compliant with NPT requirements. In a glaring example of just how much further the Bush/India nuclear deal will undermine the NPT, the Neocon Australian Prime Minister, Bush-lackey and global uranium pedlar, John Howard wisked into India immediately on Bush’s coat-tails, trying to find a way to subvert Australia’s strict refusal to supply uranium to non-NPT signatories. Pakistan is asking for the same deal that India got, while Bush’s case against Iran’s legal nuclear program has become, against all belief, even more bizarre and hypocritical. No doubt, Bush wants to secure Iran’s petroleum production for American control and consumption. Beyond some archaic modernist ideological fixation with its nuclear program as being somehow indicative of civilizational advancement, why India would be so stupid as to accede to Bush is simply incomprehensible.

The Other Risk

There is always a dreadful, usually unspoken association between the Union Carbide pesticide plant catastrophe at Bhopal and India’s potential Nuclear Minimata which lurks in the back of the mind. Obviously, gross negligence and mismanagement by Union Carbide resulted in the 1984 methyl isocyanate gas-miasma disaster which killed tens of thousands of people at Bhopal. Nevertheless, although the Union Carbide corporation allowed the plant with its name on it to be managed to a much lesser safety standard than it would have tolerated for any American-based plant, its Indian subsidiary and its consortium of Indian investors also must share responsibility for allowing the plant to be run in such a decrepit and haphazard condition. One wonders what’s being done with India’s nearly half a century’s stock-pile of nuclear waste? It just keeps on piling up.

During the December 2004 tsunami, the big wave washed over the beach and into the salt-water cooled Kalpakkam reactor site, 50 kms. south of Chennai (Madras), filling the 18 metre deep pit which had been excavated for the new breeder reactor being built there. 60 Kalpakkam employees died in the wave. All of Kalpakkam’s nuclear waste accumulations are stored on site, about a kilometre back from the beach. Further down the coast, the wave did extend inland for more than a kilometre, but apparently this time, the Kalpakkam waste dump was spared.

Let’s face it, meticulous maintenance is not one of India’s strong points. To this date, although the scofflaw Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson may have washed his hands of the disaster, India has still done nothing to clean up the toxic mess which still contaminates the area. Should one of India’s CANDU reactors ever go Chernobyl, Canada will receive its terrible karmic deserts. Although no Canadian has had a say in how those CANDU’s are being run, or maintained since they quit India’s nuke program, India will certainly immediately blame Canada for any CANDU catastrophe, and just like Union Carbide, Canada will be culpable.

Two Days After the Smiling Buddha

CBC Barbara Frum Interview with India UN Ambassador, Samar Sen
May 20, 1974

BF -Ambassador Sen, did India not violate some agreements with Canada in developing its atom bomb?

SS -India did not develop an atom bomb.

BF -What did it develop?

SS -India just exploded an atomic device, nothing to do with a bomb. It is just one of the processes which is necessary for using atomic energy. How did you get the idea for an atom bomb?

BF -What can you imagine that nuclear device being used for?

SS -Well, to be used for economic purposes. Does anybody deny us the process or the facilities or the technical knowhow of using whatever we can to grow more food, a little more comfortable, a little less hungry?

BF -Could that device not be used as a bomb?

SS -Of course it could be used as a bomb, but why should it be used as a bomb? Why voice this distrust?

BF -But why develop it at all?

SS -Because we have to have more food, more energy, obviously everybody knows that India is a very poor country.

BF -I believe your own Prime Minister described this as being a “peaceful bomb.” I think that turned up in the news.

SS -I haven’t seen the text, but I think she has made it quite clear that if she means by bomb, that it makes a lot of noise and explosion, then of course one could call it a bomb, but I think she has made it amply clear that this is to be used for peaceful purposes, for economic development.

BF -Well if that is so, Ambassador, why not sign the Non Proliferation Treaty?

SS -Because if we sign the Non Proliferation Treaty we cannot even do what we have done. We have already said we shall sign the Non Proliferation Treaty if everybody gives up any kind of, what you call, horrible weapons they have got, and everybody settles down to peaceful use of atomic energy, but the Non Proliferation Treaty was so discriminatory we could not accept it. But if everybody says that we shall give up atomic energy for destructive purposes, we shall be the first one to sign.

BF -All right Ambassador Sen, lets say that out of its Candu reactor, Pakistan now wanted to develop a peaceful bomb, what would you say then?

SS -Well, what does this mean, “peaceful bomb?” Can you explain that?

BF -What if they wanted to develop a peaceful nuclear device?

SS -If they were to develop a peaceful device which were to be used for peaceful exploitation of resources…

BF -So you would have no objection if Pakistan developed its own nuclear devices?

SS -If Pakistan, or any other country, including the USA or the USSR, or any other country wishes to find nuclear energy, or any other form of energy for exploiting its natural resources by peaceful means, then we are all for it.

BF -How would you control that it was, in fact, for peaceful purposes?

SS -Well, how has it been done so far? Has anyone controlled the USA or USSR or China, or Russia or anyone else?

BF -Ambassador Sen, thank you for talking to us.

SS -Thank you

BF -Bye bye

SS -Bye

(End Note: The late Barbara Frum was the mother of former GWB Neocon speechwriter David Frum, who coined the phrase “Axis of Evil.” Surely Frum could have taught this Moron how to pronounce “Nuclear??!”)

Ingmar Lee writes from Pondicherry, India, slightly downwind from the Kalpakkam Nuclear Power Plant. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." ' + path + '\'' + prefix + ':' + addy71317 + '\'>'+addy_text71317+'<\/a>'; //-->