Canada, India and Changing the Non-Proliferation Rules

Tasneem Jamal

Briefing 07-1

Author
Ernie Regehr

By virtue of India’s unauthorized use of Canadian-origin technology, Canada has figured prominently, if unwillingly, in five decades of Indian nuclear weapons development. Now, a proposal to exempt India from prevailing nuclear cooperation restrictions could mean either a reinforcement of that pattern or a chance for Canada to channel its historical involvement into support for new arrangements that would not compromise nonproliferation objectives.

During the 1950s, Canada supplied India with its first heavy water nuclear reactor, the CIRUS,1 to be used exclusively for “peaceful purposes.” The CIRUS, over the protestations of Canada, nevertheless became the source of the weapons-grade plutonium used to build India’s first nuclear warhead, which was detonated in 1974. Since then the CIRUS and the larger Indian-built Dhruva reactor, based on the CIRUS design, have supplied most of the weapons-grade plutonium for India’s current arsenal of about 50 warheads and plutonium for another 50.

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