Founder's Day 2003 - Chairman's Speech

Dear Colleagues: 

On the occasion of the 94th birth anniversary of Dr.Bhabha, let us first of all rededicate ourselves to the vision of our founder. This year is particularly special because it happens to be the Golden Jubilee Year of our Department. This year is also very important because we have launched the construction of India's first commercial fast breeder reactor, a very important milestone in the implementation of our three-stage nuclear power program.

Friends, NPCIL has now demonstrated world-class performance in operation of nuclear power reactors. Nuclear electricity generation of 19,358 million units was realized during the year 2002-03 with NPCIL reactors achieving an overall annual capacity factor of 90 percent, which is among the best in the world. The Kakrapar Atomic Power Station Unit 1 was adjudged to be the best performing PHWR worldwide during the rolling twelve-month period from October 2001 to September 2002. Shri Bhiksham, Station Director, Kakrapar Atomic Power Station was awarded the first WANO (Word Association of Nuclear Operators) Excellence Award for his contributions to excellence in nuclear industry, only a few days ago at the WANO Biennial General Body meeting held in Berlin. For the calendar year 2002, three NPCIL PHWR Units were among the five best PHWR Units in the world. Our fuel as well as Heavy Water plants have worked to near full capacity as in earlier years.

Clearly, we have been very successful in taking the indigenous development of nuclear power technology to the level of world-class excellence in spite of the restrictive international regime. We have to consolidate these gains and move forward to deliver to the nation, clean and green electricity in adequate quantity and at affordable cost. As all of you are aware, nuclear power is important both from point of view of sustainability as well as from considerations of protection of global climate. A very significant role of nuclear power is inevitable if India has to realize its dream and aspirations of becoming a developed nation. The realization of this goal before it is too late, is our responsibility. 

There are thus many challenges ahead of us. The first challenge is to rapidly increase the share of nuclear electricity in the overall electricity generation in our country. In this regard, we now have as many as nine nuclear power units under construction. When completed, the nuclear power generation capacity would climb to 7300 MWe from the present 2770 MWe, a jump of more than two and half times. All our construction projects are in fact moving ahead of schedule. We have also launched several initiatives to meet the fuel requirements of our power stations. In addition to the production at Jaduguda, Narwapahar, Bhatin and Turamdih mines, the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd. has taken up the work to develop mines at Banduhurang, Bagjata, Lambapur and Domiasiat. We are also working to exploit other secondary resources. The Nuclear Fuel Complex is augmenting its Zirconium production capacity through expansion of its activities including a new zirconium sponge plant being set up at Palayakayal in Tamil Nadu. It should be our endeavor to enhance fuel production capacity as early as possible to meet the requirements of our expanding program.

Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam (BHAVINI) Ltd, the fifth Public Sector unit of the Department of Atomic Energy, has come into existence a few days back for commercial implementation of fast breeder reactor technology. Setting up of the 500 MWe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor would be its first task. As you can appreciate, this technology holds the promise of around 350,000 MWe power generation capacity using the spent fuel arising from Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors which we can set up on the basis of
Uranium available in the country.

The challenge now before us is to demonstrate a commercial success in this endeavour in a manner similar to what we have done with PHWR technology. Given the excellent knowledge and skill base at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, generated through years of comprehensive Research and Development on Fast Reactor Technology, established capabilities of Nuclear Power Corporation in project engineering and construction management and dedication of every one involved, we will no doubt be successful. 

The completion of en masse coolant channel replacement and several upgrades at the 2nd Unit of Madras Atomic Power Station in a record time has been an important achievement. Successful incorporation of moderator spargers at this Unit has been a matter of personal satisfaction for me as this completes the planned rehabilitation to full power rating. Sustaining commercial viability in a changing environment often poses complex technological challenges. Life management activities at various plants, increasing the design output of 540 MWe PHWR Unit to 700 MWe, the new front-end under commissioning at the Baroda Heavy Water Plant and many other similar activities that have been recently completed, are further examples of such successfully met challenges.

While the mixed carbide fuel in FBTR has now reached a burn up of 1,13,000 MWD/T, the PFBR fuel pins under irradiation in FBTR have also reached 12,730 MWD/T burn up. These pins incorporate U233 to enable irradiation at required linear heat rating while keeping the chemical proportion of uranium and plutonium at the level of PFBR design value. Reprocessing trials for FBTR fuel pins have also been started. We have accumulated considerable industrial scale experience in the back end of nuclear fuel cycle. In the context of Fast Breeder Reactor Programme, we now have to quickly take recycle activities to commercial - industrial domain on one hand and develop short doubling time capability on the other.

Development of Thorium utilization technologies for energy production is our long-term goal. I am happy that the engineering peer review process of Advanced Heavy Water Reactor has been completed. We now have to take up independent safety review and detailed costing before we can launch the construction of this technology demonstrator. We have to also complete all necessary R&D activities including validation of AHWR core through critical experiments as early as possible. Thorium utilization capability along with related material development can open up not only vast potential for electricity production but also could offer superior alternatives for applications such as production of hydrogen, burning of actinides and other long lived wastes, long endurance remote power packs and many others. Coupled with accelerator driven spallation neutron sources, these applications could become even more viable making the vast thorium resource available in our country a truly primary energy source with assured degree of sustainability and with negligible environmental impact and residual waste. As you are aware, we have launched an integrated long-term development strategy for shaping the third stage of our nuclear power programme. Let us all put our might together to realize the goals of this programme as early as possible.

We have been able to achieve technological successes because our research base is strong. We have to ensure that we sustain and enrich the environment that nurtures research. I think we are at a level where we should pick up new challenges where our research can provide possible answers to address some of the problems of national importance. Given our technological strength we are in a unique position to translate such new research output into beneficial applications. We have already done so commendably well in the field of food and agriculture, medicine and health, environment, water availability in addition to electricity production. DAE technologies can make significant difference to quality of life of our people and so special initiatives have been launched to reach them to the target beneficiaries. Facilitating this translation should be a part of endeavour of each one of us. I would urge all of you to get first hand acquaintance with these technologies from DAE website and also encourage other to do so.

While our research has to have a national focus, we must excel at the global level. Here again, the strong linkage between our research activities and our technological capability has become our strength. Our participation in the STAR experiment at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider in the Brookhaven National Laboratory of United States, the Large Hadron Collider and its experiments CMS and ALICE under construction at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN), Geneva, participation of Indian scientists in several synchrotron and other facilities in several laboratories abroad has earned considerable respect for Indian capabilities. As you are aware, we are now among very few countries who have Observer status at CERN.

Our efforts to create world-class research facilities are also bearing fruits. The Giant Meterwave Radio Telescope (GMRT) is now a full-fledged international observational facility for radio astronomy below 1.4 GHz. Gamma ray astronomy facility at Mt. Abu is operational. INDUS-I synchrotron is working well. ECR facility at VECC has considerably enhanced the range of heavy ions available for experiments. Good progress is being made towards radioactive ion beam development. Phase-I of Superconducting LINAC Booster at Pelletron Heavy Ion Accelerator is now operational. The Advanced Centre for Training, Education and Research in Cancer (ACTREC) is now functional. The Accelerator Mass Spectrometry facility for carbon dating is now available at the Institute of Physics, Bhubaneswar. SST-1, one of the world's first Superconducting Steady State Tokamaks with elongated diverter plasmas and 1000 second operation capability is getting ready at Institute for Plasma Research. The Superconducting Cyclotron is making good progress at the Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre. INDUS-2 is getting ready at the Centre for Advanced Technology.

Colleagues, in all our work we have always placed highest priority on our safety and environment related programmes. I must add here that we are committed to not only maintaining the environment but to its further enrichment through our work. That has been our philosophy all along. We should be judged by our actual track record and not by unsubstantiated stories. All our operating power plants and Heavy Water Plants now have ISO environment certificate. Our vision on environment is not restricted to just our programme. We are perhaps the pioneers in comprehensive thermal ecology work in our country. Flue gas conditioning technology developed by Heavy Water Board is now helping reduce fly ash emission in thermal boilers. Nisarga-Runa developed here at BARC is helping convert biodegradable solid waste into useful manure and methane. The sewage sludge hygenisation plant (SHRI) at Vadodara is now providing dried hygenised sludge for use by farmers. In my view these developments are of far reaching value in value added recycle of wet solid waste in urban areas and Agricultural waste or residue in rural areas. I am confident that these technologies would grow on the strength of their viable utility not only in preventing environment degradation but to produce valuable fertilizer and energy of use in rural areas. We all should play a catalytic role to expand this application.

Finally, friends we must recognize that our human resource is our strength. Our links with academic institutions built around program oriented research and training are being further strengthened through BRNS and DAE-UGC Consortium. It should be our persistent endeavour to search talent, inspire and orient them to our national programme during their education phase, nurture and empower them to pursue innovative ideas while they pick up experimental and technological skills in the early part of their career with us and facilitate their blooming as leaders in their respective areas. We owe it to this organization that has groomed all of us so well.

Thank you.