Tag Archives: LV Krishnan

India and Nuclear Suppliers Group

Chennai Centre for China Studies, June 27, 2016

LV Krishnan, Adjunct Faculty, ISSSP, NIAS

c3s logo-newWith four meetings in 20 months and the last within two months, Modi and Obama had to find some long unfinished items and a few innocuousness for the meeting in June 2016. For India, NSG entry is a promise Obama made to India some six years ago and naturally the choice fell on it.

The story of NSG is linked to NPT that entered into force in 1970. The Treaty is more about concern that nuclear weapons could spread beyond the original five than about nuclear disarmament. It only asks members not to export to Non-Nuclear Weapon States (NNWS) that are outside NPT (a) source material, meaning uranium and special fissionable material and other equipment and (b) especially designed or processed equipment for production of special fissionable material,without insisting on IAEA safeguards.

To read the complete article click here

The Fissile Materials Debate in South Asia

National Institute of Advanced Studies

Indian Institute of Science Campus, Bangalore-12

International Strategic and Security Studies Programme


  The Fissile Materials Debate in South Asia


 Prof. R Rajaraman

Emeritus Professor of Theoretical Physics, JNU


Dr. L V Krishnan

Former Director, Safety Research and Health Physics Group, DAE


Prof. Rajaram Nagappa

Head, International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, NIAS
Venue, Date & Time

Lecture Hall, NIAS | Monday, February 29, 2016 at 04.15 pm

(Please do join us for Coffee/Tea before the event at 4 pm)

About Speakers:

Dr. L.V. Krishnan is currently Adjunct Faculty at NIAS. He joined the Department of Atomic Energy in 1958 after taking an Honours Degree in Physics from Madras University. Later, he graduated from the Oak Ridge School of Reactor Technology in 1964. He served in the Health Physics Division at Trombay from 1959 until 1973 and then moved to the Kalpakkam Centre to set up a Safety Research Laboratory. At Trombay, he served as Plant Health Physicist for some time. He has participated in safety evaluation of various nuclear installations including power reactors and reprocessing plants. At Kalpakkam, he was Chairman of Safety Evaluation Working Group and retired in 1997 as Director, Safety Research and Health Physics Group. His current interests relates to energy and environment scene in the country. He is a co-author (with C V Sundaram and T S Iyengar) of the book titled ‘Atomic Energy in India – Fifty Years’, and also a book on ‘Elements of Nuclear Power’ with Raja Ramanna.

Professor R. Rajaraman is currently Emeritus Professor of Physics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and Co-Chair of the International Panel on Fissile Materials. He received his Ph.D. in 1963 from Cornell University under the supervision of the Nobel laureate Prof. Hans Bethe. He was in the faculty of Cornell University, the University of S. California, and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton before returning to India in 1969. Since then he has been serving in Delhi University, the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and finally, J.N.U. He has also been a long-term visiting scientist at Harvard University, M.I.T., Stanford University, Princeton University and CERN, Geneva.


All are cordially invited

Plutonium Recovery and Recycle Plans in China: Review of a Report

Chennai Centre for China Studies, January 14, 2016

LV Krishnan, Adjunct Faculty, ISSSP, NIAS

c3s logo-newThe recent Belfer Center Report on the Cost of Reprocessing in China by Matthew Bunn, Hui Zhang, and Li Kang provides a very comprehensive analysis of the subject. Bunn and his Chinese co-authors have brought out many relevant details about the various aspects of the Chinese nuclear program derived from sources in Chinese language. The thrust of their objective is to persuade China to defer the programme for recovery and reuse of plutonium in reactors. They present extensive data on economics of the plans to argue that the high cost of the programme is a sufficiently strong reason for such deferment. 

To read the complete article click here

Rising Powers Respond to North Korean Hydrogen Bomb Test

Rising Powers Initiative, George Washington University, January 14, 2016

Rising Powers InitiativeThe Rising Powers Initiative at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University (GWU) quotes the recent ISSSP, NIAS Report by Arun Vishwanathan, S. Chandrashekar, LV Krishnan and Lalitha Sundaresan analysing the North Korean 2016 nuclear test. The GWU  Policy alert is a round up of how South Korea, China, Japan, India, Russia and Brazil responded to the North Korean nuclear test. The article mentions the link between the Pakistani and North Korean missile and nuclear programme that the ISSSP report had raised and how these developments are a concern for India. 

To read the complete ISSSP Report click here

To read the complete GWU article click here

The Logic of North Korea’s Nuclear Ambitions

Council on Foreign Relations, January 12, 2016

CFRThe Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) quotes the recent ISSSP Report by Arun Vishwanathan, S. Chandrashekar, LV Krishnan and Lalitha Sundaresan analysing the North Korean 2016 nuclear test. The CFR article is an interview of Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow, Amy Nelson. The article mentions the link between the Pakistani and North Korean missile and nuclear programme that the ISSSP Report had raised. It also states the conclusion that the DPRK test in all likelihood might have been a fission and not a fusion device.

To read the complete ISSSP Report click here

To read the complete CFR article click here


No radiation from N. Korea’s test yet detected in China, ROK

NK News, January 13, 2016

NKNewsThe recent ISSSP Report by Arun Vishwanathan, S. Chandrashekar, LV Krishnan and Lalitha Sundaresan analysing the North Korean 2016 nuclear test was quoted by NK News in a story entitled “No radiation from N. Korea’s test yet detected in China, ROK.” The story analysed whether radionuclide monitoring will be able to confirm or deny whether North Korea tested a thermonuclear device on January 6, 2016.

To read the complete ISSSP Report click here

To read the complete article click here

North Korea’s 2016 Nuclear Test: An Analysis

North Korea’s 2016 Nuclear Test: An Analysis

Authors: Arun Vishwanathan, S. Chandrashekar, L.V. Krishnan and Lalitha Sundaresan

To read the complete report click here

To cite: Arun Vishwanathan, S. Chandrashekar, L.V. Krishnan and Lalitha Sundaresan. North Korea’s 2016 Nuclear Test: An Analysis. ISSSP Report No. 1-2016. Bangalore: International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies, January 10, 2016 available at http://isssp.in/north-koreas-2016-nuclear-test-an-analysis/

DPRK Nuclear Test Report CoverOn January 6, 2016, two days short of Kim JongUn’s birthday, the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (DPRK) conducted its fourth nuclear test. The test took place at 10:30 AM Local Time (01:30:00 UTC). An analysis of the seismic data from the test, clearly points to the fact that the earthquake (with a magnitude of 4.85 on the Richter scale) was the result of a nuclear test and not due to a natural earthquake. North Korea released a statement following the test which claimed that it had conducted a nuclear test and had exploded its first H-bomb.

North Korea has conducted four nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, 2013 and 2016. the first test in October 2006 with a yield of ~1kT was a fizzle. This was followed by the second test in May 2009. Though there are differences over the exact yield of the test with estimates ranging from 2.4 kT to 5 kT it is considered to be a success. The third test in February 2013 had a yield around 10 kT.

It has been estimated that the four North Korean tests were conducted in the same area. Thus, it can safely be assumed that the overall geology in the area will be similar. This is an important fact which will allow for the comparison of the seismic signals of this test with those of the earlier tests.

Given the similarities in the seismic signatures of the 2013 and 2016 tests, it would be logical to conclude that the yield of the 2013 and the 2016 nuclear tests will be close to each other. While seismic data confirms that a nuclear device was tested, additional evidence is needed to confirm that it was a thermonuclear device.

While expert opinion around the world seems to be veering towards the view that the 2016 test was indeed that of a fission device, from a purely technical point of view one cannot rule out the possibility that the test was that of a small thermonuclear device. Radionuclide Monitoring is the smoking gun which establishes beyond all doubt that a nuclear weapon was tested and enables an analysis of the nature of the weapon tested.

Can North Korean missiles reach the United States?

Regardless of the type of the nuclear device tested, the very fact that North Korea conducted a successful nuclear test is dangerous. With four nuclear tests, Pyongyang is moving towards the capability to successfully miniaturize a nuclear warhead which would be deliverable by long-range nuclear missiles. If so, can North Korea target their main perceived enemy, the United States?

In this context it is important to take a closer look at the North Korea’s successful launch of a remote sensing satellite and placing it in a sun-synchronous orbit on December 12, 2012 on the Unha launch vehicle.

Though the North Korean Unha is designed as a space launcher, it can be suitably modified into a ballistic missile. Trajectory analysis using the NIAS trajectory modelling software – Quo Vadis – shows that a due North East launch of the Unha from a suitable location with a 1000kg payload (sufficient to carry a nuclear warhead) can reach all of Alaska and some parts of northern Canada. 

Click here to download KMZ file for 1000kg payload and Azimuth of 25 degrees.

Based on NIAS Quo Vadis Trajectory Simulation for 1000kg Payload, Azimuth 25 degrees

Based on NIAS Quo Vadis Trajectory Simulation Software for 1000kg Payload, Azimuth 25 degrees

With further reduction of the mass of the payload to say 800kg and launching at an Azimuth of 40 degrees, a North Korean ballistic missile will just be able to reach parts of western coast of the continental United States including the states of Washington, Oregon and northern parts of California.

Click here to download KMZ file for 800kg payload and Azimuth of 40 degrees.

Quo Vadis Trajectory Simulation for 800kg Payload, Azimuth 40 degrees

Based on NIAS Quo Vadis Trajectory Simulation Software for 800kg Payload, Azimuth 40 degrees

International Implications of the North Korean Test

The test is an indicator that Beijing does not have complete control over the actions of its North Korean ally. China would also be obviously concerned about a nuclear neighbor whose behavior is difficult to manage. Given this situation China would have doubts about North Korea’s role as a friendly buffer state between China and US dominated South Korea. This development would strengthen the US position vis-à-vis the China-Korea-US dynamic.

Implications of the North Korean Test for India

Though North Korea is geographically far away from India its growing nuclear weapon capabilities are of direct concern. This arises largely because of the close coupling of the Pakistani and North Korean missile and nuclear weapons programmes. There is no doubt that the Ghauri missile is a copy of the North Korean Nodong missile.

There is also evidence that Pakistani nuclear scientists have visited North Korea and had discussions with them.

Pakistan had tested nuclear devices in 1998. All of them were Uranium based devices which are more difficult to miniaturize. Though Pakistan has a major Plutonium based weapons development programme for miniaturization, the fact that it has not tested a Plutonium based device does not lend credibility to its miniaturization claims.

In light of the links between North Korea and Pakistan it is likely that the North Korean Plutonium based tests serve as surrogate tests for the Pakistani miniaturization drive. This has direct security implications for India.

About the Authors

Arun Vishwanathan is Assistant Professor in the International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, NIAS, Bangalore. He can be reached at arun_summerhll[at]yahoo.com

S. Chandrashekar is is JRD Tata Chair Professor in the International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, NIAS, Bangalore. He can be reached at chandrashekar.schandra[at]gmail.com

L.V. Krishnan retired as Director of Safety Research and Health Physics Programmes at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research at Kalpakkam in 1997. He is Adjunct Faculty, International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies. He can be contacted at krishnan97[at]gmail[dot]com

Lalitha Sundaresan is is Visiting Professor in the International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, NIAS, Bangalore. She can be reached at chandrashekar.schandra[at]gmail.com

Tracing HEU used for peaceful purposes

ISSSP Reflections No. 35, December 31, 2015

Author: LV Krishnan
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HEUraniumCMention of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) conjures up vision of a nuclear weapon. Uranium is called as HEU if the enrichment level is higher than 20% and Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) if it is lower. Natural uranium has an enrichment level of 0.7%.At the borderline enrichment level of 20%, it takes over a tonne of HEU to make a bomb, but at 90% it requires less than twenty kg.

Appreciable amounts of HEU have been used in many countries for civilian applications, mainly to fuel research and test reactors. Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) helped set up the reactors in other countries and also supplied the HEU fuel. In recent years, with international assistance, many of these reactors have been redesigned to run on LEU fuel.

Some of the HEU earlier supplied to countries is still present in a few of them. There is preference in some cases to continue to use HEU in the reactors for reasons of compactness and to obtain higher intensity of neutrons for experimental purposes.

The most recent compilation of data on worldwide civil HEU stocks can be found in the report published in October by David Albright and Serena Kelleher-Vergantini of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), USA titled Tracking Inventories of Civil Highly Enriched Uranium. Their task was not easy since official information on transfer of HEU to countries and its return is scarce. They have had to rely on open information for the most part.

Current HEU Holdings

The ISIS report says 136.8 Te of the material (upper estimate) is believed to be held by various countries in the world. The enrichment levels vary in these stocks and details are not available.

A country is said to be free of HEU if it is holding less than one kilogram of it after either returning most of the material to the Supplier State or blending it with natural uranium to lower the enrichment. The Report lists altogether 27 countries in this category.

Some years ago as many as sixty countries were found to be holding more than one kilogram each. Now the number is down to twenty-six countries due to efforts made by the supplier countries to get the material returned.

Non-Nuclear Weapon States (NNWS) together hold 16.8 Te (upper estimate) of which Kazakhstan has 10 Te. The combined stock of eleven other NNWS amounts to 6.7 Te (upper estimate). The balance is distributed among the rest fourteen States.

It comes as no surprise that among the five NWS, US alone holds 93 Te, followed by Russia with an estimated 20 Te. France comes next with 4.65 Te. England has 1.4 Te and China has one tonne. The weapon-related HEU stock is not included in these.

Inter-country HEU Transfer

There is a long history of HEU transfer between countries mainly for use as fuel in reactors meant for research, testing, isotope production and power generation. The US and Russia have been the major suppliers of HEU to other nations. As minor suppliers, UK, France and China have provided kilogram quantities of HEU to a few countries.

United States as HEU supplier

US had provided about 6 Te to sixteen NNWS of which Canada, Germany and Japan received in excess of one tonne each. Belgium, Netherlands and South Africa received in excess of half a tonne. Soviet Union made available a little over 10 Te to seven countries including China. Kazakhstan alone received 10 Te from Russia for use in a power reactor. China in turn has provided 1 kg weapon grade HEU to each of five countries for setting up neutron source reactors.

A report from US Department of Energy tells us more on US HEU supplies. Between 1957 and 1994, under the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy programme, the US had supplied about 25.6 Te of HEU to 31 countries. The enrichment level varied from 20% to a little above 90%. France received about 7.7 Te.  Germany was provided 11.3 Te while Canada and Japan each got about 2 Te.

Russia as HEU supplier

Russia is the other major supplier of HEU fuel for research reactors and there is little information on its transactions. But, it is known that Russia provided uranium fuel in three enrichment levels (17, 21 and 26%) for the fast breeder reactor BN-350 in Kazakhstan that began operation in 1972. The reactor was permanently shut down after 27 years of operation.  According to one estimate, the fully loaded core had 6.4 Te HEU and during its operating life the reactor used about 32 Te of 17% LEU, 17 Te of21 % HEU and 50 Te of 26 % HEU (Pavel Podvig: History of Highly Enriched Uranium Production in Russia, Science & Global Security, 19:1,  Note No. 10 and 11, pg. 61, 62). Most of the spent fuel from the reactor was sent back to Russia for reprocessing. When the reactor was permanently shut down, about 10 Te of the highly radioactive spent fuel remained and has been consigned to storage at a safe site in Kazakhstan with US assistance.

Russia is reported to have provided no higher than 80% HEU to other countries. After the International Programme for Reduced Enrichment for Research and Test Reactors (RERTR) was introduced in 1978, Russia began limiting HEU supply to enrichment levels no higher than 36%.

More recently, Russia provided 240 kg of 64.4% HEU for the Chinese Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR) according to the ISIS report. The reactor was commissioned in 2010.

HEU supplies for Research and Test Reactors

The IAEA is also a good source of information on HEU used in research and reactors. It has published data on the range of enrichment levels used (Figure 1) and on the number of fuel assemblies stored in various countries with information on the provenance of the HEU in these (Table 1). Although the enrichment levels vary with the reactor, each fuel assembly could have a few hundred grams of HEU. The core of a reactor could hold a few kilograms.  The total in storage works out to about 5 Te.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Range of enrichment level in HEU used in Research and Test Reactor Fuel Assemblies

The radioactivity content of these used HEU fuel assemblies drops to low enough levels after a few months to allow easier handling. The enrichment level in spent fuel gets reduced as uranium is used up in the reactor.  Large numbers of used Fuel Assemblies would be required to recover and purify enough HEU for one device.

Table 1. Number of Spent Fuel Assemblies in Storage
Source: https://nucleus.iaea.org/RRDB/Reports/Container.aspx?Id=C1

Region US HEU Russian HEU
Africa and the Middle East 189 0
Asia 1029 470
Eastern Europe 11  10616
Latin America 67  0
North America 1614  0
Pacific 0  0
Western Europe 2033  2112
Total 4943  13198

Recovery of supplied HEU

In recent times, citing security concerns, supplier countries are making efforts to recover the HEU they had provided earlier.

A total of 7.7 Te had been returned to US by 1994. About 60% of the US origin HEU still remaining abroad is highly radioactive having been used in a reactor. The unused stuff is in the form of metal, compounds, scrap, and waste and as such is less secure. About 6.7 Te of US HEU remaining in other countries has been either converted to LEU by mixing with natural uranium or consumed by fission in the reactors.

According to data shared by the US’s NNSA officials (pg. 40) cited in a more recent report by the Belfer Center, United States exported 26.1 tons of HEU over the years, approximately 15 tons of which has either been returned or blended down. About 11 tons may still be present in various countries, or their status not confirmed. The US makes the best efforts among countries, yet it is believed that efforts to fully account for the amount of HEU supplied by US and that received back have not been quite successful. Figures 2&3 (pg. 18) trace the export by the US of HEU for use in research and test reactors and its recovery in the period 1957-2012 (Source of Figures: United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission Report to Congress on the Current Disposition of Highly Enriched Uranium Exports Used as Fuel or Targets in Nuclear Research or Test Reactors, p.18 available at http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1331/ML13319A135.pdf)


Figure 2Figure 2: Exports of US HEU (1957-2012)



Figure 3

Figure 3: Imports of US HEU (1957-2012)

Misinformation on the Indian scene

The Authors of the ISIS report have made an egregious error in including India in the list of recipients of 5 kg of Russian origin HEU. They correctly point out that India received 5 kg of HEU as fuel for the Apsara research reactor, twice from UK and once from France. While the used HEU fuel was returned to UK, the French supplied stock is presently being kept in monitored storage under safeguards. The reactor is being redesigned to function with LEU.

The ISIS report also refers to discussions India had with France in 1970s for supply of HEU for the Fast Breeder Test Reactor built with French assistance. However, it disregards the subsequent fact –acclaimed by India in various fora – that the reactor was actually commissioned and is being run with indigenously produced plutonium-based fuel for the reactor. The explicit statement in the report that “there remains some uncertainty whether France supplied this HEU, which would have amounted to tens of kilograms of HEU” can only be considered mischievous.

About the Author

LV Krishnan retired as Director of Safety Research and Health Physics Programmes at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research at Kalpakkam in 1997. He is Adjunct Faculty, International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies. He can be contacted at krishnan97[at]gmail[dot]com


Uranium in India: Availability, Use and Controls

ISSSP Reflections No. 27, June 22, 2015

Author: LV Krishnan

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Report Review of “Governing Uranium in India” by Rajiv Nayan, Danish Institute For International Studies, DIIS Report 2015:02, May 2015

Available for free download at: DIIS Report: Governing Uranium in India

This unique report is a comprehensive document published by the Danish Institute of International Studies (DIIS), as part of the Governing Uranium Project, led by DIIS.

The Report serves as an extremely useful reference work as it provides extensive information on uranium production, import and use in India. Specifically, it describes in great detail the arrangements in place to ensure safety and security at all of the fuel cycle stages, in conformity with world norms.

Tarapur Nuclear Power Plant: The Hindu File Photo

Tarapur Nuclear Power Plant: The Hindu File Photo

The author has systematically scoured official sources of information to provide a wealth of relevant and valuable data. He draws attention to the absence of separation of uranium mines between civil and strategic end use but observes that nuclear weapons production is not an endless activity.

India generates 75% of nuclear electricity through natural uranium fuelled Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs). There are 17 such reactors of a rather small capacity (220 MWe) in operation now.  There are also plans to add more PHWRs of larger capacity (700 MWe) since there is a complete indigenous technology base for design and construction of this type of reactors.

Some years ago, the extent of indigenous uranium resources was estimated at about 60,000 Te. If all of it is harvested, it could support about 13 reactors of 700 MWe capacity for about 50 years, which is the expected life of a reactor. Present estimates of indigenous uranium resources are about three times larger. They are of low grade, mostly less than 0.1% uranium content in the ore material. They occur in many parts of India other than Jharkhand. They can support about 30,000 MWe of nuclear power through the PHWRs.

The currently operating PHWRs with a total capacity of 4360 MWe require under 1,000 tons of natural uranium per year. About half of this is needed to fuel those reactors under Safeguards. It is likely that more may come under Safeguards if indigenous uranium production falls short.

According to current plans, India may well have about twenty five 700 MWe PHWRs in another 25 years. Absent accelerated growth in indigenous uranium production, dependence on import of natural uranium will continue.

One would think that uranium mining technology is far less complex than designing and building safe and reliable nuclear reactors. Yet, the country was far more successful in the latter venture. A stage was reached when uranium production fell short and reactors could not operate to full capacity without uranium imports. The Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with the US enabled this.

India presently purchases uranium, as ore concentrate as well as ready made fuel pellets for reactors, from France, Kazakhstan, Russia and Uzbekistan. There is hope that Australia and Canada can be added as possible sources. There are also plans to acquire a stake in uranium mines abroad.    

Reactors operating with imported uranium were placed under International Safeguards. India signed and ratified the Additional Protocol of IAEA. This entailed accounting of imported natural uranium as it passed through various stages of the fuel cycle just as is being done for Lightly Enriched Uranium (LEU) supplies for the Light Water Reactors (LWRs) in Tarapur and Kudankulam. Wide ranging legislation has been passed in India to ensure safety and security of nuclear material. The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act is a more recent addition.

This gamut of legislation also enables import of LEU for 24 LWRs that could be added in the presently acquired or announced sites over the next 25 years. An estimated 500 Tons per year of LEU is the quantum of import that would be needed, equivalent to about 3,400 tons of natural uranium.    

Much before signing the cooperation agreement with the US, India became a signatory to the IAEA Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) and 2005 Amendment as also the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

About the Author

LV Krishnan retired as Director of Safety Research and Health Physics Programmes at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research at Kalpakkam in 1997. He is Adjunct Faculty, International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies.

Hatf IX/Nasr – Pakistan’s BNW: implications for Indo-Pak Deterrence

Rajaram Nagappa, LV Krishnan, Arun Vishwanathan, Aditi Malhotra

December 17, 2013, India International Centre, New Delhi

A team from the International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore made a presentation on Pakistan’s Hatf-IX/Nasr battlefield nuclear weapon and its implications for Indo-Pak deterrence. The presentation was held at the India International Centre (IIC), New Delhi. It was attended by several serving and retired diplomats, military officers, academics and officials from various government departments. 

The complete ISSSP report on the Hatf-IX/Nasr is available here

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