FOUNDER’S DAY –
Dr. ANIL KAKODKAR
CHAIRMAN, ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION
As we do every year on this day, we have assembled here to pay homage to our Founder, Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha on his 99th birth anniversary. Today we enter the Birth Centenary Year of Dr. Homi Bhabha who gave us a vision for Atomic Energy programme in the country. The year-long Homi Bhabha Birth Centenary Year celebrations would be inaugurated by our Prime Minister today at 5 p.m.
We now stand at the threshold of anew era, the era in which we wish to accelerate deployment of nuclear power and also push the frontiers of nuclear power technology with an eye on the future. The Three Stage vision given to us by Dr. Bhabha will continue to guide us in this process.
In technological terms, we have done well. We now have a robust Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor Technology with world class performance and a globally Advanced Fast Breeder Reactor Technology which we expect would play a rapidly increasing role in the years to come. Thorium utilization on a large scale remains our ultimate objective since that has the potential to become the basis for our eventual energy independence. In terms of technology for thorium utilization, we have many unique achievements to our credit. That we have made this progress in the Three Stage Nuclear Power development programme in a self reliant manner is a singularly important feature of our achievements. It is on the basis of this capability and its further development in the years to come that we wish to expand the role of nuclear energy for sustainable development of our country.
While we pursue the Three Stage development path, we have to remain aware of the rapidly increasing electricity generation needs. For nuclear power to play its due role, its rate of deployment has to be much faster. Only then can we expect to enhance the share of nuclear power. The three stage development programme which inherently has a huge – in fact several ten folds – multiplier effect in terms of nuclear power generation capacity without additional new fuel remains relevant and in fact is the key to realization of this objective. However, we need to realize that inspite of our success in technological terms with respect to first and second stage, and with their most optimistic deployment rate, there would still be a very large gap between electricity generation requirement on one hand and the generation capacity on the other.
This gap would in fact increase and become alarmingly large over next three or four decades. Bridging of this gap through import of energy at that time would become very difficult because of concerns regarding availability and prices. Further the serious issues with regard to climate change would get aggravated with increasing use of fossil fuels which in any way appears inevitable. Enhancing the size of the first stage of our programme from the present 10,000 MWe to something four or five times larger in as short a time frame as possible is thus a good solution to this problem that has both a near term as well as a long term importance. In the near term it would enable the much needed augmentation of electricity generation capacity and in the long term it would enable bridging the vast electricity generation gap without having to depend on imported energy. The opening up of the international civil nuclear cooperation in fact would enable us to enlarge the first stage of our programme to a level that could through the multiplier, as a result of three stage implementation strategy, enable us to reach a level of energy independence before it is too late. We are thus entering a new era in which we would continue to implement the domestic Three Stage Nuclear Power programme and supplement it with additional nuclear power generation capacity through external inputs. This also underscores the importance of our approach that as we build additional Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor and Light Water Reactor Units on the basis of domestic and imported technology respectively, we would make the Fast Reactor Technology along with its rapid deployment robust enough to support a short doubling time and competitive commercial performance. This is already a part of our current R&D mission and I have no doubt that the entire approach is feasible. I had presented an outline of this approach in a Public Lecture at the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore on July 4, 2008. This is available on DAE website and I would urge each one of you to take a look at it in case you have not already done so.
We have to ensure that we pursue our three stage development programme, our research and development activities and our strategic programme in an autonomous manner on the basis of our self reliant approach. While sufficient in-built precautions have been ensured to prevent any external constraint on our autonomous development, we need to make rapid progress in our domestic development without any laxity. Our goal of seeking energy independence at an early date crucially depends on success on both fronts i.e. rapid deployment of PHWRs and LWRs and speedy maturing of our three stage development involving reactors and associated fuel cycles. I think, as we enter the Homi Bhabha Centenary year, thanks to the vision given to us by Dr. Bhabha, we are in a very sound position to confidently move further on this path. At this point I wish to re-emphasize that our commitment to self reliant approach in our autonomous pursuit of our R&D should remain undiluted. We cannot afford any kind of vulnerability that could compromise our independence in terms of implementation of our nuclear programme in national interest.
While we have very successfully pursued our R&D as well as deployment programme in mission mode, our approach to R&D has been broad based and comprehensive covering all related disciplines and the entire research, development, demonstration and deployment chain. In recent times we have taken major initiatives such as Homi Bhabha National Institute, Prospective Research Fund and Specialist Groups to strengthen research-technology development linkages as well as a much larger student programme. We should expect these initiatives to enable faster transition of new knowledge into new technologies. It is also worthwhile to note several major international collaborations in which we now are partners. We had a very important and well acknowledged involvement in building of LHC which was recently completed and its detectors CMS and ALICE. We are now partners in major projects like ITER, JH Reactor and others. Such collaborations enable us to access major international facilities for research and at the same bring in technological benefits for our laboratories and industries. Our participation in such activities has brought us international recognition. There is now even greater interest in seeking our collaboration. We must ensure that there is complete complimentarity between our domestic programme and possible international collaboration. This is necessary to maximize the national benefit out of international collaboration. During the year Indus II Synchrotron radiation source at RRCAT has reached its full energy level and a number of beam lines are now ready for use by researchers. The superconducting synchrotron is in advanced stage of commissioning and should become available for experimental research soon. Our technologies such as radiation hygeinization of sewage sludge and nisargaruna have been recommended by the Planning Commission for funding under Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission. Similarly there is now greater funding support for food irradiation plants. Planning Commission has also shown interest in Bhabhatron Teletherapy system. It is gratifying to note that we have also made all round progress in terms of large scale deployment of our socially relevant technologies related to water, agriculture, food, health and waste management.
We are aware of the several new dimensions of our mission involving accelerator driven systems, high temperature reactors, hydrogen production and utilization and fusion energy including solar energy. These programmes are well underway and would yield results in near future.
One of the major thrust that we should bring in our mission is to develop technologies to reduce radiotoxicity of radioactive waste to a level comparable to a uranium mine in a period of say around 300 years. Based on present day knowledge this seems to be a realizable goal and we should take up this challenge. While we already have a proven industrial scale technology to manage high level waste, the above approach along with advanced safe reactors such as AHWR would be a very welcome development in the context of large scale deployment of nuclear power that one could expect taking place world wide in the future.
As we enter the Homi Bhabha birth centenary year, we also see accelerated growth in terms of new technologies and their deployment.
As we move with time, we see greater role for our domestic R&D leading to new technologies ready for deployment ahead of others. Our success in doing so with our country men benefiting from our work in a major way would be our greatest tribute to the memory of Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha.