Founder's Day 2004 - Chairman's Speech

Dear Colleagues:

      It is our cherished tradition that on the occassion of the birth anniversary of Dr. Bhabha, we pay homage to our founder father by way of recalling his vision and the steps that we have taken in converting that vision into a reality. In the Golden Jubilee Year of our Department we have launched the commercial domain of the second stage of the Three Stage Programme envisaged by our Founder. This historic event took place at Kalpakkam last Saturday, in the august presence of our honorable Prime Minister. The event was marked by the start of construction of the first 500 MWe nuclear plant based on the fast breeder reactor. It is worthwhile to restate some portions of what our Prime Minister said during the occasion and I quote,
      “Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to the founders of our nuclear programme. Dr. Homi Bhabha, the father of India’s atomic energy programme, was a great visionary. He laid the foundations of this national treasure of self-reliant development, nurturing a whole generation of outstanding scientists and engineers.
      Further, he said, “The activities of the Department of Atomic Energy range from fundamental scientific research to developmental applications of use to the common man – in the fields of health, industry, food preservation and water desalination projects. It is a matter of deep satisfaction that our scientists have mastered practically all the aspects related to the release of nuclear energy. This has contributed to our nation’s security and well being in a fundamental sense. Energy Security is an issue of vital importance, particularly in the context of the accelerating pace of our economic growth. If we succeed in instituting an optimal mix of energy resources in which nuclear energy is an important component, we will be able to ensure our energy security. India’s low per capita energy consumption currently cannot for long go hand in hand with our quest for an accelerated pace of economic growth. Energy Security is therefore a national imperative. We must break the constraining limits of power shortages, which retard our development. Nuclear energy is not only cost effective, it is also a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels. We are determined as a nation to utilize its full potential for the national good. It can also be a much needed cushion against fluctuations of prices of petroleum products. 
      He went on to say, “It is a matter of national pride that India has developed comprehensive capabilities in the entire gamut of fuel cycle operations. India is also among the select group of countries which have the ability to recover plutonium from irradiated nuclear fuel and use it to produce power in thermal as well as in fast reactors. This path will ensure for us a large quantum of nuclear power on a sustainable basis. Ladies and gentlemen, India is uniquely placed to utilize technologies required for launching the third stage of our nuclear power programme based on the utilization of thorium. The technology roadmap prepared by the Department of Atomic Energy for this purpose will receive our Government’s fullest support. Fast breeder reactor technology is of crucial importance in enhancing our nuclear power capacity. By launching its commercial applications, we are indeed entering a new and more advanced stage of nuclear energy production, a technology mastered only by a very small group of countries. The Department of Atomic Energy has been able to consolidate and strengthen our indigenous capabilities in the face of externally imposed limitations and constraints. These have, however, spurred us to greater levels of achievement. The founding principles of ‘Atoms for Peace” were subverted by restrictions derived from an ineffective non-proliferation regime. Despite these limitations, our scientists to their great credit have excelled time and again in demonstrating our indigenous capabilities measuring to the highest standards in the global nuclear industry.
      Finally he said, “The nation expects that the Department of Atomic Energy, as one such center of excellence, will continue to be at the cutting edge of scientific pursuit, national dedication and social commitment. The nation is proud of your achievements and is grateful for your contribution. However, we have a long and arduous journey ahead of us and many milestones to cross. It is my sincere hope that the Department will live up to our expectations. In this task, the Department can count on the sustained support of our government and the people of our country.”
      Dear colleagues, as all of you are aware, we have utilised the Golden Jubilee Year for a comprehensive stocktaking of our achievements and chalking out of a roadmap for the future. The exercise of developing our collective vision involved nearly 1500 young scientists and their mentors. Through this exercise we have now identified our collective vision. The Vision document was released by the Hon’ble Prime Minister and is available in DAE website and I suggest all of you to go through it and accelerate work in your area of expertise. We have also completed a study on the growth of electrical energy in India over the next fifty years and the role nuclear power can be expected to play. This report was also released by Hon’ble Prime Minister and is available on our website. Since all our estimates for an appropriate energy mix for India's sustainable development in the coming decades, include nuclear power in a significant proportion, We have to quickly build upon our half a century of accumulated national capabilities. The threatening rise of oil prices this summer has once again made a compelling argument about cost effectiveness of nuclear power. Quite independently, the prevailing low interest rates also favour investments in nuclear power.
      In a nutshell, the future course of our programme would aim at the following:
         • Shift to a large-scale construction programme on Fast Reactors and their associated Fuel Cycles as
           early as possible as we will soon reach the full potential of PHWR programme.
         • Develop Fuel Cycles with short doubling time
         • Demonstrate technologies for large scale thorium utilisation.
         • Develop technologies to support faster growth of thorium systems.
         • Develop technologies for co-generation of electricity, hydrogen and water.
         • Work on Fusion technologies.

      Our vision also encompasses a strong emphasis on nurturing domestic education - research linkages as well as on research - technology linkages covering a broader mandate of scientific research with special emphasis on nuclear energy and radiation.

      Time has now come when we start looking at nuclear energy not just as a source of electricity but rather as a primary energy source to provide water as well as hydrogen in addition to electricity and cover a broader spectrum of human necessities.

      During the year, all our commercial industrial activities which have evolved out of indigenous R&D have performed profitably with fullest possible capacity utilisation. Collectively they paid a dividend of around Rs.550 crores out of which Rs.520 crores came from Nuclear Power Corporation alone. Kakrapar Unit-II was recognised as one of world’s best power reactor by CANDU Owners’ Group and the Station Director of Kakrapar was awarded the Nuclear Excellence Award by WANO.

      Unit-2 of Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS-2) restarted in July 2003 after completion of en masse coolant channel replacement and system upgradation jobs which included replacement of steam generators and installation of moderator sparger. This resulted in the Unit’s power being restored to its rated value 220 MWe.

      Both the Units of the Tarapur Atomic Power Station (TAPS-1 and TAPS-2) completed their refueling outages in 20 days and 29 days respectively. NAPS-2 accomplished its annual shutdown in a record time of 19 days.

      Construction programme for nuclear power reactors is progressing well ahead of schedules and we expect one of the 540 MWe PHWR Units to be made critical this year.

      Mixed carbide fuel in FBTR continues to perform well. Successful completion of reprocessing of this fuel marks yet another important milestone in our march towards second stage of our power programme.

      The Heavy Water Board exported 6 MT of heavy water to South Korea and 30 MT of heavy water to China. 

      In the field of safety, Heavy Water Plant - Tuticorin crossed an all time high record of 11 years of continuous working without any reportable and disabling injury, that is equivalent to 13.5 million man-hours. The trend was maintained and the plant completed 4380 days of safe operation.

      Exploratory and evaluation drilling resulted in augmentation of additional resources of uranium at Wahkyn in Meghalaya; Rohil-Ghateshwar in Rajasthan; Gogi in Karnataka and Koppunuru in Andhra Pradesh.

      In addition to uranium ore production at Jaduguda, Narwapahar, Bhatin and Turamdih mines (all in Jharkhand), the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd., that is engaged in mining and processing of uranium ore, took up the work to develop mines at Banduhurang (Jharkhand), Bagjata (Jharkhand), Lambapur (Andhra Pradesh) and Domiasiat (Meghalaya). 

      Programme on Accelerator Driven Systems is picking up as a coordinated national programme. Soon we should see an active involvement of our Universities in addition to DAE Units and other laboratories through BRNS and UGC-DAE Consortium linkages. This development is important for us as a means of supporting growth with thorium systems as well as for minimisation of long lived wastes through transmutation. 

      In the area of Radiation Technologies and Application DAE is working in close cooperation with other organisations of the Government of India to widen the reach of these technologies for the benefit of the common man. Remarkable progress was achieved in applications of Radioisotopes and Radiation Technology in the areas of nuclear agriculture, food preservation and industry. A state-of-the-art telecobalt system for use in hospitals has been developed through collaborative efforts of BARC, TMH and an Industry. The system is under evaluation at ACTREC. Similarly, development of medical LINACS is being pursued.

      Considerable progress has been made in popularizing radiation processing plants in the country for both medical products as well as agricultural commodities. The first totally private radiation processing plant named “VIKIRAN” has been inaugurated in Kolkata on August 21, 2004. A number of private entrepreneurs have signed MOU with BRIT for setting up similar facilities and they are in different stages of progress. Construction has started for some of them.

      Radiation Processing Plant, Vashi, has shown improved performance and is generating good revenue now.

      A number of Blood Irradiator Units have been sold to cancer hospitals in the country and agents are being appointed for increasing our reach into the market. Some spot excess of radioactive cobalt-60 has been exported to Canada.

      Our cancer related activities are expanding to scale new heights in terms of research, high quality service, training, societal outreach and international collaborations. The telemedicine linkages with Regional Cancer Centres and several remote areas would soon take cancer related services closer to the doorstep of patient in remote and rural areas.

      Three industrial Nd:YAG lasers made at CAT were supplied to other DAE units. Two of these lasers were in use for decanning of irradiated fuel bundles in hot cells in BARC.

      Indigenously developed high power continuous wave carbon dioxide (CW CO2 ) laser was utilized at CAT for profile cutting of steel sheets for Indus-2 and DC accelerator magnets. A 90W diode pumped solid state laser was developed at CAT for material processing applications. 16W laser power in green was obtained by frequency doubling of a Q-switched Nd:YAG diode pumped laser. Another important development was the design, building and commisioning of a Table Top Terrawatt Nd:glass laser system. This will be used for studying laser-plasma interaction at ultrahigh intensities.

      CAT also developed and designed a fibre optic distributed temperature sensor, for use in multipoint temperature monitoring of systems.

      A new technique for transport, acceleration and sorting of microscopic objects using laser light, was developed.

      The construction of a 2.5 GeV, Indus-2 made significant progress, with the work on the development of different subsystems and infrastructure facilities making head way. To supplement Indus-1 and Indus-2 programme, a grazing incidence x-ray reflectometer, set up on a 3kW x-ray generator, was developed.

      The Electron Cyclotron Resonance (ECR) facility at VECC has widened the range of heavy ions available for experiments. ECR-2 Ion Source was connected to cyclotron. It was in use for injecting high charge state heavy ion beams. The work on setting up a Superconducting Cyclotron has made good progress with the closing of the cryostat. Developments in Radioactive Ion Beam Facility are progressing well.

      SST-1, one of the world’s first Superconducting Steady State Tokamaks, with elongated diverter plasmas with 1000 second operation capability, is getting ready at the Institute for Plasma Research, Ahmedabad. We are looking forward to the visit of European Commission team for discussions in connection with India’s participation in the ITER programme.

      Discovery of a new pulsar using GMRT is an excellent example of closing the Research-Technology-Research cycle indigenously. 

      We have now major international collaboration arrangements in the area of basic research. As an Observer at CERN our participation in terms of supply of equipment and systems for LHC as well as its detectors CMS and ALICE continues to grow. Development work on GRID is also progressing fast. Indian scientists are also actively involved in STAR experiments at BNL-USA. Discussions are in progress in the context of Linear Collider development as well as with GSI on advanced nuclear physics research.

      A designated member of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) since its inception, India continued taking active part in policy management and programmes of the agency. India continued to offer training facilities, fellowships, scientific visits, etc. to foreign scientists and provide the services of its scientists for expert assignments to other countries both through IAEA and to countries with which we have entered into bilateral agreements for cooperation in the field of peaceful uses of atomic energy.

      Nearly 470 scientists from India participated in international symposia, workshops, conferences and meetings. Over 200 scientists from abroad participated in scientific conferences, symposia, meetings, workshops and training programmes in India.

      We are looking forward to the visit of Director-General, IAEA to India in the next month.

      Sad demise of Dr Raja Ramanna, a doyen of Indian Atomic Energy Programme is an irreparable loss. He was always available as a Mentor to all of us and was holding our hands at all times. We all witnessed his sharp intellect during the collective vision exercise that we had recently. That was his last visit to Trombay. The real homage that we can pay to him is to carry the work forward and realise our collective vision. For this purpose, as we discussed during the vision exercise we have to put in place new mechanisms that enable new ideas to be taken forward, nurturing of young talent and reaching out the benefits of our research to the society at large.

      Together let us solemnly resolve to excel in all our endeavors and make our founder’s vision a long lasting reality.