FOUNDER’S DAY – 2006
Dr. ANIL KAKODKAR
CHAIRMAN, ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION
As usual, we have assembled here to pay homage to our Founder, Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha on the occasion of his
97th birth anniversary. This year is special as it also marks the
50th year of BARC, the mother institution of our atomic energy programme, named after him. To-day is an occasion when we take stock of our achievements over past one year and rededicate ourselves to the vision of our Founder Father.
To-day there is far greater realization, than any time before, of the importance of nuclear energy as perhaps the only viable solution to sustainable development without further aggravating the global environment that is already threatening serious climate change. For a large country like ours, which is on a rapid economic growth path with per capita energy consumption still a very small fraction of level of energy use necessary for sustaining a reasonable quality of life, nuclear energy is of crucial importance to secure our energy independence. Just to put this scene in a quantitative perspective, by the middle of this century, India would be consuming roughly half of the global coal consumption and roughly one tenth of global hydrocarbon consumption. Just imagine the stress on global energy resources as a result, quite apart from the devastating consequences this would have on the global climate. This also underscores the importance of large role that nuclear energy must play in our energy supply options and the consequent responsibility that all of us in the Department of Atomic Energy must shoulder. Seen in this context, the vision of our three stage programme laid out before us by our Founder, as a road map of nuclear energy development based on nuclear energy resources available in India and the all important mantra of self reliance has not only withstood the test of time but has also become even more important to-day. Let us all rededicate ourselves to this vision and this mantra.
Let me now recount for you some of the achievements that have been realized during the year. This year marks the successful completion of the Tarapur 3 & 4 projects 6 – 7 months ahead of schedule with substantial savings in terms of project capital cost. That this has been achieved for the first of its kind system developed indigenously is indeed remarkable and every individual involved with the activities related to this project deserves out compliments. These 540 MWe Units are among the largest units presently operating in India. We now have 16 operating units with a total capacity of 3900 MWe. As you are aware, presently we are constructing seven more nuclear power units. Unit 3 of Kaiga is expected to be operational this year. The Government has recently approved in principle construction of eight more units. When completed, this would take the total nuclear power generation capacity to around 14,000 MWe.
On the development front, the capacity of new Pressured Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) Units has been enhanced to 700 MWe. This will help to reduce the unit capital cost further. Now we are also in a position to launch construction of 300 MWe Advanced Heavy Water Reactor, an innovative next generation technology demonstrator for energy from thorium, sometime next year. Our experience base on fast reactor fuel and its recycle has become considerably richer this year. We now have a focused programme for the development of short doubling time metallic fuel for fast breeder reactors in parallel with establishment of oxide fuel recycle capacity needed for the 500 MWe Prototype Fast Breeder reactor and additional breeder reactors to follow. Construction of PFBR is making rapid progress. Capacity expansion of back end of fuel cycle which forms the bridge between first and the second stage of our programme is also progressing rapidly.
On the power plant refurbishment front, MAPS Unit – I was put back on stream after replacement of its coolant channels and feeders. TAPS Unit 1 & 2 were also put back on stream after major safety upgrades. For NAPS-I laser based channel cutting technology developed at RRCAT has been deployed. Laser technology for reactor coolant channel cutting and full scale replacement of reactor feeders are accomplishments realized for the first time in the history of PHWRs any where in the world.
The 2.5 GeV Synchrotron Radiation Source INDUS – II has started functioning at RRCAT. Soon it would reach its full design potential. INDUS – II, comparable to any other X-ray source of its class, would soon become a major facility to support a broad spectrum of researchers in their research over a wide range of disciplines. The Steady State Superconducting Tokamak (SST-I) at the Institute of Plasma Research is undergoing commissioning tests. We are now a full partner in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) Project.
Our vision of nuclear energy should now go well beyond nuclear power. We should now look at nuclear energy as a primary energy source to be deployed for a variety of end uses through appropriate energy conversion technologies. Demands of desalinated water and fluid fuel substitutes are likely to become very acute. This will happen earlier in India than most other parts of the world. I am glad that this aspect has been duly factored in our Research & Development strategies. Development of Accelerator Driven Systems, high temperature reactors, high temperature electrolysis systems, thermo-chemical splitting of water, solid oxide fuel cells, advanced membrane technologies and advanced materials technology are important thrust areas that we are working on in this regard.
There are important benefits to be realized through the use of accelerator driven systems and high temperature reactors in the context of thorium utilization. While one can expect better doubling time with thorium, there is also a distinct possibility of being able to incinerate long lived radioactive waste thus eliminating or considerably minimizing the already extremely low minor actinide burden arising from thorium utilization.
Strong proliferation resistance of thorium fuel cycle and superior capability to dispose excess plutonium in case of thorium reactors as compared to Fast reactors is another area where Indian technological capability could be of use to global community in its march towards nuclear renaissance.
With our programme expanding to wider horizons, we now need a broad range of materials. Sodium, enriched boron and a variety of solvents would be required in continuously increasing quantities. Our efforts to expand production capacities based on indigenous research are yielding rich dividends. These new activities along with efforts to bring in greater efficiency and cost reduction in production of heavy water and nuclear fuel have contributed towards freedom from external denial and more competitive nuclear power.
Banduhurang mine and Turamdih mill are expected to go in production by the end of the year. Our efforts to deploy electromagnetic aerial survey capability to explore deep seated uranium deposits should soon be in place. In particular, I am looking forward to the completion of indigenous development of such an instrument.
Besides nuclear power, there are several other domains where atomic energy applications contribute to national development and security. Our efforts to expand the reach of these applications to our society with the help of concerned departments of the Government of India and other partners are bearing fruits. More radiation processing plants are coming up in different parts of the country. We soon expect Indian mangoes reaching the US markets as a result of application of radiation processing. BRIT also supplied Cobalt-60 sources to Vietnam. Turn over of BRIT is rising rapidly. Outreach of TMC’s cancer control programme is growing with telemedicine connectivity. International Union against Cancer (UICC) recently recognized TMC as the best institution in this area. BHABHATRON Teletherapy machine is expected to make a significant market entry this year. Efforts to deploy accelerator based radiation processing are progressing well at BARC and RRCAT. It is also a matter of considerable satisfaction that a large number of Nisargaruna bi0-digester plants have already come up and many more are in the pipe line. Number of radiation mutants that have been released for cultivation is steadily growing. BARC’s contribution to agricultural output in terms of oil seeds and pulses has been truly outstanding.
Sustained continuity of our activities related to research, development, demonstration and deployment has all along been a distinguishing feature of our programme Strong emphasis on research in all disciplines of science and engineering has enabled us the knowledge base needed for maintaining robustness in the implementation of our programmes. In order to encourage idea based research in support of our programmes with particular emphasis on strengthening the interface between research and technology development, we now have created a mechanism of Prospective Research Fund which can be sought by individuals or groups on a competitive basis. We are also moving towards enhancing student strength engaged in Ph.D level research in all our research institutions. Further, we are strengthening our bridges with the academic system in the country to reinforce higher education in disciplines of specific core interest to the atomic energy programmes.
In order to prepare students at plus two level to become proficient in experimental skills as they learn core science subjects and become capable of pursuing scientific research focused to meet national objectives, we are moving fast towards establishment of National Institute of Science Education and Research at Bhubaneswar and DAE – University of Mumbai Centre of Excellence in Mumbai. The Homi Bhabha National Institute is moving forward with its programme.
Dr. Bhabha had a dream and a road map to convert that dream into reality. We have made substantial progress on that path. We are now at a stage where we can confidently move forward more rapidly on our own, on the chosen path which is unique. This is because our situation is unique. In the process we not only address the problems before our nation with appropriate and robust solutions but also move forward in areas not covered by anyone else earlier. That provides us the global leadership in the particular area which surely would be of interest to others over a period of time. This is the way we should take our nation forward through Research, Development, Demonstration and Deployment chain. We owe it to our founder. We owe it to our nation.