With concerted and dedicated efforts in the past four and half decades, India has been successful in establishing a self-reliant nuclear power industry. It has developed expertise in all stages of the nuclear fuel cycle, i.e., right from exploration and mining of atomic minerals, preparation of high purity nuclear materials (like Uranium, Thorium, Zirconium etc.), to production of fuel elements for reactors, production of heavy water and safety disposal of nuclear wastes.
The prime objective of the atomic energy program, as defined in the Atomic Energy Act of 1948, is the development, control and use of atomic energy solely for peaceful purposes, namely, the generation of electricity and the development of nuclear applications in research, agriculture, industry, medicine and other areas. To achieve this objective, efforts were initiated to build up.
(i) A versatile infrastructure of research facilities, (ii) trained scientific and technical man-power, (iii) raw material processing centres, (iv) the know-how and capabilities to manufacture nuclear components and electronic equipments to support the atomic energy programs, and (v) the technology of safe disposal of nuclear wastes.
Thus, making truly self-reliant India started work on the peaceful utilization of nuclear energy at a time when it was essential very much of a frontier science, into which a few developed countries alone had ventured. The men largely responsible for that during its early years were Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and Dr. Homi Bhabha. They visualized the crucial role to be played by nuclear energy in future to bring India out of hunger and poverty. Pandit Nehru considered nuclear power vital for reconstruction and rehabilitation of an industrially and economically weak India and emphasized its use only for peaceful purposes in the constituent Assembly on April 4, 1948.
Three-Tier Power Programme
India’s nuclear programme has envisaged three stages in the country’s atomic energy development for peaceful purposes:
(i) Building of heavy water moderated reactors which could produce power as well as plutonium needed to start the breeders.
(ii) Utilizing the plutonium produced from first stage reactors in the fast breeders. This stage will continue until suitable thoriunvuranium-233 reactors become available, and
(iii) To run stage-II type breeders on the thorium- Uranium-233 cycle.
India aims at establishing 10,000 MW of nuclear power generation capacity from Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) by 2000 A.D. which is expected to contribute about 10 per cent of country’s total power generation capacity at that time. Present contribution is only 3 per cent of total power generation capacity.