India has a firm nuclear policy based on the peaceful utilization of its atomic power. It remains unchanged in spite of changes of government.
(i) All nuclear weapons throughout the world must be eliminated for world peace,
(ii) India will not produce any nuclear weapons,
(iii) India may not have nuclear explosions even for peaceful purposes unless such explosions are absolutely necessary,
(iv) India is not prepared to open its nuclear plants for international inspection.
The atomic energy commission (ACE) formed on 10 August, 1948, is the apex body for formulating the policy for all atomic energy programmes, whereas, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) set up in 1954, is the executive agency for implementing the atomic energy programme.
Research and Development:
For carrying out fundamental research on physics, mathematics and nuclear sciences, four institutions are being set up and the DAE is acted as their funding agency.
Tata-Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR):
This came into existence in June, 1945 at Colaba, Mumbai, largely as a result of initiative taken by the late Dr. H.J. Bhaba. The aim of this institute was to carry out fundamental researches mainly in the fields of mathematics, physics, astrophysics, molecular biology and nuclear sciences.
Sasha Institute of Nuclear Physics (SIMP):
Primarily it is a centre for advanced study in nuclear physics, solid state atomic and molecular physics and was set up in 1951 at Calcutta.
Tata Memorial Centre (TIMC): For research on cancer, this is one of the foremost centers of the country and is at Mumbai.
Institute of Physics (IOP):
Situated at Bhubaneswar, Orissa. Institute of Physics is considered as one of the premier centre for advanced study in nuclear physics. It was set up in 1974 as a registered society funded by Government of Orissa and in 1985 it became one of the added institutions of DAE.
Apart from these, there are four public sector undertakings under administrative control of DAE, i.e. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), The Indian Rare Earths (IRE), the Uranium Corporation India Ltd. (UCIL) and the Electronics Corporation of India Ltd. (ECIL).
Nuclear Power Corporation of Indian Ltd:
Set up in 1987, this is the largest public sector unit for implementation of nuclear power generation programme in India on commercial lines. It is responsible for designing, constructing, commissioning and operating all the seven nuclear power stations in the country; i.e. two units of 16 MW each at Tarapur near Bombay; two units of 220 MW each at Rawatbhata near Kota in Rajasthan; two units of 235 MW each at Kalpakkam near Chennai, and one unit of 235 MW at Narora in Uttar Pradesh and several more which are under various stages of construction.
At Chhatrapur, Orissa, there is an unit of the Indian Rare Earths known as Orissa Sands Complex.
The Electronic Corporation of India Ltd., Hyderabad manufactures electronic instruments and equipments for nuclear research. For advanced research on peaceful utilization of atomic energy, lasers and superconductivity- the DAE has set up four research centres, namely;- The Bhaba Atomic Research Centre at Tomboy (Bombay), The Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam (Tamil Nadu), Centre for Advanced Technology, Indore (Madhya Prasesh) and Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre, Calcutta (West Bengal).
Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC):
This centre was set up in India in 1957 as Atomic Energy Establishment at Tomboy and in 1967, was renamed as Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in memory of it founder Dr. H.J. Bhaba. It is the premier national centre for research and development (R & D) in nuclear energy and related disciplines.
Facilities available at BARC and its sister units:
(i) Research reactors, APSARA, CIRUS, PURNIMA-II and also a large indigenously built 100 MW research reactor DHRUVA are in operation,
(ii) For experimental research 5.5 MW Vande-Graff accelerator is available.
(iii) At Valhi, it has set up a 14 MV pelletro accelerator, Beryllium Plant and a Radio Pharmaceutical Laboratory.
(iv) Power Reactor Fuel Processing Plant and Nuclear Waste Verification Plant at Tarapur are managed by BARC.
(v) It has set up variable Energy Cyclotron Centre at Calcutta for advanced work in nuclear chemistry, production of isotopes for various applications and radiation damage studies on reactor materials.
(vi) For detection and identification of underground nuclear explosion anywhere in the world, it has set “up its Seismic Station at Gauribidanur near Bangalore,
(vii) It has established Nuclear Research Laboratory at Srinagar and High Altitude Research Laboratory at Gulmarg, Jammu and Kashmir for conducting research in atmospheric and cosmic ray physics.
(viii) Radio isotopic studies for diagnosis and therapeutic applications can be done at Radiation Medicine Centre, Mumbai, which is a sister unit of BARC.
BARC’s activities cover a vast areas of studies such as physics, chemistry, engineering, metallurgy, fuel reprocessing, fuel fabrication, radioisotopes, waste management, electronics, instrumentation, lasers, biology, agriculture, food technology, radiation medicine etc. and many others. It is the main centre in India to carry out R & D work for peaceful utilization of atomic energy. It also conducts countrywide personal monitoring service for evaluating radiation exposure of workers in institutions using radiation sources. Hence it can be called as the heart for the entire R & D backup of the India’s nuclear power programme.
Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research:
Set up in 1971 at Kalpakkam (Tamil Nadu), the main function of this centre is to carry out R & D in Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR) Technology. The major facility here is an indigenously build 15 MW Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) which attained criticality in October, 1985 the 40 MW FBTR is using indigenously developed mixed carbide fuel which is first core of its kind in the world.
The conceptual design report for systems and components of a 500 MW Proto type Fast Breeder Reactor is also prepared. Several engineering test facilities such as sodium loops and laboratories for Metallurgy, radio chemistry and fuel processing related to fast reactors also exist at this centre.
Centre for Advanced Technology
This centre is set up in 1984 at Indore, Madhya Pradesh to spearhead research in high technology fields like fusion, lasers and accelerators.
Nuclear Research Reactors:
At present there are six research reactors functioning in our country. Out of this following first fives are stationed at BARC only.
The first Indian research reactor completed its 40 years of operation of August 4, 1996. It is a large 1 MW swimming pool Hike reactor. APSARA is utilized in several areas of research such as neutron activation analysis, neutron radiography, nuclear detector testing etc.
(2) C1RUS (Canada-India-Reactor):
Built in 1960, it is used to produce a wide range of radioisotopes for researches in chemistry, biology, medicine and nuclear physics.
(3) ZERLINA (Zero Energy Reactors for Lattice Investigation and New Assemblies):
This is India’s third research reactor which became critical on January 4, 1961. It is used for studies of Uranium heavy water lattices.
(4) PURNIMA (Plutonium Reactor for Nektonic Investigation in Multiplying Assemblies):
Built in mid-1972, PURNIMA, a zero energy fast Reactor was put up for experimentation in fast reactor physics. The plutonium-oxygen fuel elements were fabricated as core of this reactor. In 1984, it was modified to PURNIMA- II which used uranium-233 fuel. Later, PURNIMA-II is again modified as PURNIMA – HI.
It is a research reactor commissioning at BARC and continued to operate satisfactorily providing facilities for basic and applied researches particularly in the fields of physics, biology, activation analysis and isotope production.
A 30 KW fuelled research reactor using Uranium-233 fuel, became operational on October 29. 1996 at Kalpakkam, (TN). Uranium-233 is produced by irradiation of thorium in reactors. With this the country has crossed an important milestone in utilisation of its vast thorium resources to meet our long term energy needs.
Fast Breeder Reactors
India’s first Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) with a design capacity of 40 MW thermal and 13 MW electrical power attained its criticality on October, 18, 1985 at the Indore Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), Kalpakkam, (TN). This FBTR marks the commencement of second phase of India’s nuclear power programme.
The design and fabrication of a new plutonium based fuel for the reactor, the harnessing of sodium as moderator and indigenously built most of the components are among the achievements for Indian nuclear scientists.
IGCAR centre is drawing up plans to design and build a 500 MW Proto type Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) during the turn of this century.
Nuclear Fuel Cycle:
The Nuclear Fuel Cycle consists of activities associated with the program of nuclear power generation and includes (i) Heavy Water Production (ii) Nuclear Fuel Fabrication (iii) Fuel Reprocessing (iv) Waste Management (v) Mining and Mineral Exploration and (vi) Safety.
(i) Heavy Water Production: Heavy water is used as moderator in CIRUS and as moderator and coolant in DHRUVA. To attain self-sufficiency we have several heavy water production centers.
First heavy water plant at Rawatbhatta (Rajasthan) is of 100 tonnes capacity. In addition \.v it, there are 67 tonnes plant at Baroda (Gujarat), the 71-tonnes plant at Tuticorin (Tamil Nadu), 62-tonnes plant at Talcher (Orissa) and 100 tonnes plant in Maharashtra.
(ii) Nuclear Fuel Fabrication:
At the Nuclear Fuel Complex, Hyderabad, the fuel for Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) is manufactured from the yellow cake (uranium concentrate) from Uranium Corporation of India Ltd. and zircalo products are produced from zircon sand (zirconium bearing mineral) from Indian Rare Earths Ltd.
(iii) Fuel Reprocessing:
Research and Development in fuel reprocessing is carried out both by BARC and IGCAR. BARC is operating fuel reprocessing plant at Tomboy and Tarapur and has set up a plant at Kalpakkam.
Cold commissioning processes run of Kalpakkam Fuel Reprocessing Plant (KARP) were successfully initiated on March 23, 1996. This is the major reprocessing facility which will boost up capacity to separate plutonium for use in the country’s Fast Reactor Programme.
(iv) Radioactive Waste Management:
BARC operated special facility for removal and handling radioactive wastes without any radiological or industrial accidents. A special machine for remote cutting the long radioactive coolant tubes was also successfully designed, constructed and utilized for this purpose.
(v) Mining and Mineral Explorations:
India is rich in atomic minerals. The Atomic Minerals Division has estimated uranium reserves of Lambapur (Andhra Pradesh) to 1,640 tonnes and at Peddagattu block 2,550 tones of Uranium Oxide. Total reserves of lignite and other heavy estimated minerals of the country were estimated to 278 million tonnes. In various reverie places of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, 685 tonnes of Xenotime bearing minerals were also updated. It is estimated that India’s total uranium reserves are about 73,000 tonnes and thorium deposits are about 363,00 tonnes, the largest in the world.
(v) Radiological hazards and safety:
The goal of nuclear power industry has always been protecting the people, the environment and the plant personnel from potential hazards of ionizing radiation. Radioactive radiations are extremely harmful and dangerous to all living organisms, especially human beings. They are:
(i) Carcinogenic: causing cancers,
(ii) Mutagenic: causing change in genetic materials,
(iii) Tetratogenic: causing birth detects by interacting in the normal developmental patterns of embargo.
Hence there are Health Physics Units at various Nuclear Power Plants and facilities are continued to provide radiological safety support for operating plants. The Environmental Surveillance Laboratories (ESLs) are there for monitoring the programmes at reactor sites.
BARC sponsored Radiation Protection Surveillance Services are provided to medical, industrial, agriculture and research institutions using radiation sources in the country. The integral global environmental radiation monitoring systems, capable of measuring airborne radioactivity as well as background radiation levels continuously, are installed at defense laboratories, Jodhpur and Mangalore University.