India needs to highlight its world-class nuclear security, says report - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 12 January 2015

India needs to highlight its world-class nuclear security, says report

ORF report: Need for specialist security force, independent regulator (picture: Kudankulam nuclear power plant)

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 12th January 15

With the spectre of nuclear terrorism growing, the international community has been concerned about the security of India’s nuclear facilities. The worry has grown since 2010, when radioactive Cobalt-60 surfaced in a New Delhi scrapyard, killing one person and hospitalising eight others.

Now, an important new academic study has found India’s nuclear installations better protected than most western countries have believed.

“Unlike other recent evaluations, we assess that India’s nuclear security measures are comparable to best practices globally”, concludes Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, who has authored the report entitled “Nuclear Security in India”, released on Tuesday at a Delhi think tank, the Observer Research Foundation.

The report rebuts the more negative conclusions of earlier international studies, such as that of the non-partisan Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), concluding that the NTI “did not examine Indian nuclear security in depth”. In contrast, the ORF study included field trips to survey nuclear security in the UK, France and Japan.

The report recommends, “India needs to be more pro-active in publicising its achievements. The Indian reticence in this regard is particularly surprising considering that India has a strong case to make.”

This is good news for the government, which is campaigning for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG); as well as three other counter-proliferation regimes --- the Missile Technology Control Regime, Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement.

The report finds that New Delhi’s unwarranted secrecy about security structures and protocols has created a perception of poor procedures and standards. “The assumption appears to have been that Indian was not transparent because its nuclear safety and security measures were below par although that is far from true,” it says.

Even so, the report recommends several changes, such as the establishment of a specialised security force to protect nuclear facilities.

“While the CISF (Central Industrial Security Force), which currently handles the task of securing nuclear facilities has done a good job so far, its mandate is vast. With the Indian nuclear establishment set to expand it might be preferable to have a separate force that only secures nuclear facilities,” says the report.

Besides nuclear facilities the CISF’s 1,40,000 personnel are used for securing space establishments, airports, seaports, power plants, sensitive government buildings and even some heritage monuments.

The report also recommends a fully autonomous nuclear regulator. Currently, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) --- which oversees the functioning of nuclear establishments and facilities --- operates under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). Since the AERB is required to oversee the DAE, this is widely perceived as a conflict of interest.

The report states: “There has to be clear separation of roles and functions between the nuclear establishment and its regulator to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

The report evaluates India’s preparedness to counter three main forms of nuclear terrorism. First, and most unlikely, terrorists could mount a catastrophic attack with a full-scale nuclear weapon. Such nuclear devices are extremely hard to obtain and require expertise to operate, but cannot be ruled out until nuclear supermarkets --- like Pakistan’s AQ Khan network --- are eliminated entirely.

Second, terrorists could sabotage a functioning nuclear establishment, such as a power plant, effectively transforming it into a slow-burning nuclear bomb. Doing this from within would require sophisticated technological expertise, but a 9/11 style attack from the air remains feasible.

Third, and most feasible, is the explosion of a “dirty bomb” in a heavily populated environment. This is a relatively simple device in which explosives are packed with radioactive material.

With the explosion spreading hazardous radioactivity over a large area, time-consuming and expensive decontamination would be required, with the second-order impact of an attack on the economy and the psychological effect on the public. This danger demands that users like hospitals and education institutions tightly safeguard radioactive materials. 


  1. The SFC needs to look into utilisation of DSC and TA Infantry units for the task for / in operational units. For the permanent and stationary establishments, TA units should be employed if CISF is short of manpower..

    TA Units and establishments would be separate and independent to look after the security of these installations / establishments.

  2. India must be very very focussed on this issue with western agencies also interested in sabotaging Indian independent nuclear deterrence along with Pakistan and China. The P5 will like to hold on to their monopoly. that is why the reccent attempt through Colombo by ISI to sabotage Kalpakkam and Koodankulam should be viewed. The villagers being brain washed around koodankulam also must be taken care off.


    This by far must be the biggest farce ever heard of, especially pertaining to Nuclear Safe Guard Standards torbe published as a open to all kind of report. The person who is suggesting this is trying to execute a white collared crime of passing sensitive information to our enemy & non enemy state.

    In today's world nobody publishes details about what all measures and counter measures are being taken to safe guard the most important bargaining tool in India's kitty...its nuclear armament. That is what will keep any unfriendly (e.g.: China) or today's half friendly country like USA at bay! If the world doesn't believe in be it...there is no need to go out of the way and convince countries who openly fund a terrorist nation like Pakistan even after so many proofs available from time to time. Yet they all choose to ignore it and provide civil and the audacity of it is in giving military aid as well. That clearly highlights the double standard with which they want to look at their vested interest. India has become more of a market for openly identifying weaknesses in the Russian it fighter aircraft or warships or submarines! That's all that USA is interested in.

    By suggesting open publication about nuclear safe guards so that those cab be known researched and than exposed by western powers is an act of treason...unfortunately India doesn't gave an act like the Patriot Act!

    Most of the media is biased as if Western powers are the worlds most good people and the other side are always demonstrated in negative lights. Why is France not being put on sanctions list for its unilateral role in destroying Libya. Why is USA openly threatening Iran or Russia. While I am no fan of middle east but anything done by Saudi is approved of by USA and even an act of acting against ISIS by a country like Syria or Iran is not looked upon positively by USA.

    Such suggestions being made and the so called psuedo media raising it to be read multiple times is an act of challenging the Indian readers intelligence. If Pakistan is over looked...their is an extremely strong case that India need not do any effort in convincing western powers...who commit open treason by arresting or restricting people who exposed their bad wikileaks etc.


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