The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a multi-national body that controls the export of fissile material. The group came into being after india detonated an atomic bomb way back in 1974, an event that was called Smiling Buddha. Since then, the members of the NSG have refused to export to India any material that can be used in making nuclear devices.
Earlier this month, the NSG, under pressure from the US, lifted the ban. As part of the deal, India will have to disclose which organizations within India are civilian nuclear establishments and which ones are military in nature.
Civilian establishments, which are/will be predominantly power plants, will in theory get access to enriched uranium required for the production of electricity, while military establishments will need to continue to fend for themselves.
India is expected to spend over USD 40 Billion over the next 15 years in building and running nuclear power plants!
Setting aside my apprehensions about what the future holds for us Indians, I would like to speculate on the effects of the NSG waiver on the Indian job market. Till date, all nuclear related organizations within India have been predominantly military in nature and limited in number. Getting a job in a nuclear power plant has been really difficult because of all the security regulations involved and civilians have had very little opportunities to find jobs in this sector.
However, once the waiver is in place, there are already clear indications that large business houses such as TATA, and Reliance will enter the field and build their own nuclear power plants solely to produce electricity. When that happens, the number of jobs available to civilians in this area is bound to sky-rocket.
And, we are not talking about the need for additional nuclear scientists alone here. We are talking about a whole range of other qualified people and secondary establishments needed for the smooth functioning of these massive power plants.
Nuclear power plants are like super large factories operating in 3 shifts, 24 hours a day, throughtout the year. To start with, we need to build them which means there will be a tremendous increase in the requirement for structural engineers, civil engineers, architects, and other construction related personnel.
Once the power plants are in place, there will be jobs for highly skilled individuals as well as entry level personnel. For probably the first time in India, there will be ample opportunities for people with pure sciences background (A group that has been completely deprived of meaningful employment opportunities in India). Obviously, there will be a need for more nuclear scientists, research assistants, laboratory assistants, power plant operators, computer operators, quality control engineers.
The large power plants will employ thousands of people which will mean that each of these establishments will be like townships leading to a wide variety of indirect employment - from schools and hospitals to transportation services, to restaurants and cinema halls.
Finally we come to the informal and unorganized sector consisting of drivers, house maids, plumbers, electricians, and others required for the smooth functioning of the townships.
I am yet to see any official figures on how many jobs will be created over the next 15 years because of the NSG waiver, but I am sure it will be in the order of hundreds of thousands of jobs and that is good news. Especially when you consider that the number of job openings are coming down in most parts of the world!
One thing I can't help wondering about though is what this 40 Billion dollar budget can do if we were to concentrate on harnessing some clean energy source such as solar energy. We could be pioneers instead of buying outdated, expensive and extremely dangerous technology. There's another blog post itching to get out.