FOUNDER’S DAY –
Dr. ANIL KAKODKAR
CHAIRMAN, ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION
We have assembled here today to pay homage to our Founder Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha on the occasion of his 98th birth anniversary. Dr. Bhabha gave us a vision and a road map for development of atomic energy programme in India. This was based on some fundamental realities. It is for this reason that his vision is largely valid even today. Founder’s day is an important occasion to take stock of what we are doing, recalibrate our actions vis-à-vis our vision and to rededicate ourselves to realize the vision of our Founder.
There can be no doubt that nuclear energy has to form an inevitable part of the energy mix for our country. Given the ten to twelve fold increase in our electricity generation that is necessary to support our economic growth and issues of energy resource sustainability and global climate change staring at us, the importance of nuclear energy will only grow with time. The three stage nuclear power programme and the philosophy of self reliance, the two most important legacies of Dr. Bhabha, are based on the ground realities of modest uranium and vast thorium reserves that exist in India as well as the very sensitive nature of nuclear technology. Dr. Bhabha went ahead with Jaduguda Uranium mine fully recognizing the very lean ore grades there at a time when restrictions to fuel import were not as severe as they are today. On the other hand, while we were still in a very nascent stage of our reactor technology development and choice of reactor technology for the first stage was still under review, he went ahead with establishment of Tarapur reactors through import. Dr Bhabha’s ideas about the road map to realize autonomous domestic technological capability and to use external cooperation to leap frog were very clear. Self reliance did not mean isolating ourselves but rather keeping several options including the ‘do it yourself’ option ready at hand so that the country is not subject to vulnerabilities of any kind.
We have come a long way in building our domestic technological capability in nuclear power and nuclear fuel cycle area. Nearly half of the 10,000 MWe programme for the first stage based on Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) is already in place. Another eight units of 700 MWe, the unit size for our next PHWRs would complete the full potential of the first stage that the known reserves of natural uranium in the country would permit. NPCIL has already demonstrated construction, operation and economic performance matching global standards and has the capability to construct all these eight units and more simultaneously. Our current challenge is to augment uranium production to match the needs of operating power reactors. Opening of new mines is a time consuming activity. Efforts of last 6-7 years have resulted in opening of new mines at Turamdih and Banduhurang and starting of a new uranium processing mill at Turamdih. With the deliveries of uranium from Turamdih the situation will start easing out. Construction of a new mine and mill at Tummalapalli in Andhra Pradesh has been approved by the Government and is about to start. We also hope to be able to take up Uranium projects in Meghalaya and Karnataka to be followed up by projects in Rajasthan and other places. Most of these deposits have been known for a long time. The present fuel demand supply mismatch would not have arisen, had these projects been pursued in the same spirit with which Dr. Bhabha started activities at Jaduguda. We are determined to move ahead with the growth of our PHWR programme and realize the planned 10,000 MWe of PHWR capacity in the shortest possible time. I would like to compliment our colleagues in NPCIL for their professional approach to programme management. They have excelled in all domains of their activities specially the innovative fuel management strategies to maximize fuel use efficiency, large scale rehabilitation activities and efficient construction and operations management. All other units of DAE such as NFC, UCIL, BARC, IREL, RRCAT, IGCAR, HWB and AMDER involved with fuel cycle and other activities have put in their best to support these efforts and deserve our fullest compliments.
I would like to mention at this stage that our uranium exploration programme has seen a paradigm shift in terms of far greater mobilization of resources and technologies and we should not rule out a PHWR capacity much larger than 10,000 MWe, should we be successful in finding more uranium. Given the capability of our uranium geologists and the unprecedented programme thrust, I see no reason why this should not happen.
Moving on to the second stage, PFBR construction is progressing satisfactorily. Reprocessing of high burn up fuel discharged from FBTR is providing valuable experience. Nuclear fuel reprocessing and refabrication is crucial to success of our second stage programme. We need to realize robust commercial scale operations both in terms of PHWR back end fuel cycle activities as well as closing the fast reactor fuel cycle. We now have a very large programme in this area with some important technological achievements. We will remain focused in this endeavour including on development of short doubling time metallic fuel cycle in the long run.
We are looking forward to launch of construction of 300 MWe Advanced Heavy Water Reactor. Besides being a technology demonstrator for large scale Thorium use, this reactor represents an advanced reactor system that would meet all objectives of a 4th generation system.
The three stage development programme is thus very much on course and has seen faster progress in recent years than any time before. One must, however, understand and appreciate the sequential nature of this technology deployment strategy. The nuclear properties of Thorium, while would permit sustaining a given power generation capacity to make full use of energy from our vast thorium reserves, do not permit growth in power generation capacity. Large scale deployment of thorium has thus to await enhancement of power generation capacity through fast breeder reactors to a requisite level. This is not a matter of reactor technology choice but inherent nuclear properties of thorium
Our efforts look at international civil nuclear co-operation have to be seen in this background. We have insisted and would continue to insist that such co-operation can not be allowed to hinder our strategic programme as well as our three stage programme. We have also insisted on our requirement to reprocess and recycle the spent fuel so that we not only have the additionality in the near term, which is very desirable, but also have the ability to establish an order of magnitude larger power generation capacity along with its fuel supply, for the future. We must recognize the long term benefit of such energy resourse in light of gaps in our future energy resource availability.
We have also started looking beyond the three stage nuclear power programme chalked out by Dr. Bhabha. Several new nuclear energy technologies that are emerging are of special importance to us. Accelerator Driven Reactor Systems are important to us since they would permit growth even with Thorium fuel cycle and at the same time facilitate greater flexibility in incinerating long lived actinides and fission products. High temperature reactor systems are necessary to be able to move towards hydrogen economy in which nuclear form a major primary energy source. Fusion energy offers the hope of realizing a lasting solution to the energy problems of the world. I am happy to note that we are advancing on all these fronts.
As is customary, let me now recount some of the important achievements during the year:
Kaiga-3 (a 220 MWe PHWR) which achieved its first criticality on 26th February, 2007 within 5 years from the first pour of concrete. With completion of Kaiga-3, there are now 17 nuclear power reactors in operation, the total installed capacity being 4120 MWe. The Indian nuclear power sector has achieved over 270 reactor years of safe, accident free operations. Major Ageing Management activities including Enmasse Coolant Channel Replacement (EMCCR) were completed in NAPS-1 and the reactor is expected to come back on-line shortly. With this, for PHWRs (RAPS-2, MAPS-1&2, NAPS-1) now have their coolant channels replaced.
The first cycle of Peer-reviews of all the operating stations by WANO has been completed. RAPP-5 unit has also undergone a Pre-Startup Peer Review by an expert team of WANO. This was the second review of its kind in India; after TAPP-3 which was reviewed last year. The next Biennial General Meeting (BGM) of WANO will be hosted by India, in 2010 at New Delhi.
Construction activities are underway in full swing at six other reactors – three PHWRs, two LWRs and a 500 MWe PFBR. Of these, two reactors (RAPP-5 and Kaiga-4) would see start of fuel loading during the year. On completion of the reactors currently under construction; there will be 23 reactors in operation with installed capacity of 7280 MWe.
The superconducting heavy ion LINAC project at TIFR has reached a major milestone in July, 2007 with all seven accelerator modules energized to accelerate Si beam to an energy of 209 MeV, highest achieved so far in the country.
During the year, RRCAT also started a new R&D program to find a deeper basis as to why superconducting cavities built out of niobium display a large spread in the accelerating gradients achieved. I was glad to see that this effort has resulted in a patent application filed by the RRCAT team and hope that our efforts in this upcoming RF superconducting technology area will remain at the forefront.
I am happy that as part of our involvement in the most advanced international accelerator project, viz the large hadron collider being built at CERN, we have fully met all the commitments we had made. I know that the support provided by our scientists and engineers for commissioning the subsystems of LHC has been deply valued. The DAE-CERN collaboration under the new Protocol on “Novel Accelerator Technologies” has also blossomed in the last year. We have not only contributed to design of transport line for CLIC test facitlity-3 (CTF-3) but have also made headway in the fabrication of components for CTF-3. For the LINAC-4, (the front end of CERN’s Superconducting Proton Linac project) RRCAT has carried out the development of a modulator needed to drive the klystron and its fabrication is under way. This development will directly contribute to our own ADS program. CERN has also provided us useful hardware for our accelerator related programs.
Our collaboration with Fermilab was started during the year with a focus on the design and development of superconducting RF cavities and cryomodules for different applications. In recent months this activity has gained momentum and some of our young engineers have visited Fermilab and contributed to the R&D programs there. I foresee that this experience in superconductive technology development would prove extremely beneficial when we undertake building later stages of high intensity proton accelerator for our ADS program and am happy to note that a strong domestic program has been launched in this direction.
The synchrotron radiation source Indus-2 set up by the Department at RRCAT, Indore has continued its steady advance during the year and substantial progress was made on the installation of two more beam lines. RRCAT also built and installed a new RF cavity on Indus-1 which has improved the performance of this storage ring.
At VECC development of RIB capability is continuously moving forward.
In field of lasers, RRCAT has broken fresh ground in developing lasers and laser based systems required for various Departmental programs. I am happy to see that notable progress has been made in the development of equipment required to inspect the dissolver tank of a fuel reprocessing set up and an optical fibre based temperature sensor for use at Kalpakkam as well as an upgraded fuel pellet inspection system made for NFC’s use.
It is also heartening to see that after last year’s campaign at Narora Atomic Power Station, when a laser based system developed at Indore was used for en-masse coolant channel replacements in a PHWR, with tremendous saving in time and man-rem consumption, the RRCAT and NPCIL team is gearing up to deploy this technology at the Kakrapar PHWRs. This shows the strength of the indigenous technology and I wish to compliment all the persons involved in this development and successful deployment.
In the field of biomedical applications of lasers, RRCAT team has developed a real time optical coherence tomography (OCT) set up, with a hand held probe, which has been used for imaging of human skin and animal models for oral cancer. I am also glad to see that our basic research, involving development of new techniques for manipulation and sorting of microscopic objects (like, single cells) and then carrying out studies on them, has also made notable progress.
In the area of laser plasma studies with high power lasers, I am happy to see that the RRCAT team has used their state of the art Tera Watt Ti-sapphire laser system to perform the first charged particle acceleration experiments in the country. They have realized accelerated electrons of up to 70 MeV energy and opened up a new avenue of producing and using such beams. In these programs scientists from KEK, Japan were also involved.
Human resource development is another area where we have immensely benefited from the foresight of Dr. Bhabha. However, the challenges posed by the major expansion that we foresee in our programme, new technological areas that we need to work on and the external attractions necessitate new initiatives. Many of them such as diversification of induction channels including linking up with other institutions, networking among DAE institutions and creating new academic programmes and institutions are now in place. I expect these initiatives to not only match the programme requirements in terms of knowledge domains but also create a new culture of organic linkages between advanced contemporary research and new innovative technologies. Given that we would be working on several areas that would be globally unique, such an environment would be of crucial importance.
Friends, as I have mentioned earlier, we remain committed to Dr. Bhabha’s dream of developing a strong national capability in atomic energy for the benefit of our people. We do so in a comprehensive way covering all potential areas and remain conscious of timely deliverables that are expected of us. To achieve this objective in a vastly expanded programme, we have to work in several inter-related and overlapping teams. Many of them would also involve members from external agencies. Team work has been our strength and our best homage to the memory of Dr. Bhabha would be to carry the team working capability to a new high. I am sure all of us will take up this challenge come out successful.
Good luck to you all.