Monday, November 16, 2009

This always works out well for us. Except for all the times it hasn't.

One of the developing plot points about Prime Minister Harper's trip to Asia this week is whether, or more likely when, we'll sign a civilian nuclear deal with the subcontinent. There's really nothing left for Canada to gain by staying out of India's market, except for us to make a point about non-proliferation.

Is it a point worth making? Nobody asked me, but it's worth pointing out that the Indians screwed Canada the first time we helped them out with a nuclear reactor, promising to adhere to all sorts of safeguards and not use the resulting nuclear materials to develop a bomb. India's first nuclear explosion used, you guessed it, material derived from that reactor.

Now, countries don't make decisions this way and never have. Canada will almost certainly sign a deal with India because, frankly, we want a piece of the action and the US, EU, and France have all already beaten us to it. There's no embargo, no isolation of India to maintain. But I can't help but feel like we're throwing out lot in with those who have basically killed any realistic chance of nuclear non-proliferation.[1]

The flip side to this is that opening up India to the boys at AECL is another sop to Canada's struggling nuclear industry. This would be the crown corporation that, with every break and every subsidy thrown its way by the Province of Ontario, still couldn't build a reactor that the government would dare build. So wonderful for us -- in order to keep "jobs in Canada", we have to prop up a company that, uh, can't build new projects in Canada anymore.

[1] People shouldn't think I'm blaming India for the end of the era of non-proliferation: India has always stated, rather forthrightly, that it thinks any attempt to keep developing countries from having the bomb while western countries maintain their nuclear forces is unacceptable. That doesn't mean we have to sell to them.

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