The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), established on August 3, 1954 celebrated its Diamond Jubilee during August 2014 – August 2015. It has been serving with the motto, ‘Atoms in the Service of the Nation’, and is consistently delivering the benefits of nuclear science and technology in six broad areas: Energy Security, Food Security, Water Security, Health Security, National Security, and developing and sustaining world class scientific and technological strength through research, education and industry.
Nuclear Power and Fuel Cycle
DAE contributes in energy-mix options of India by pursuing progressively the indigenous three-stage Nuclear Power Programme, envisioned by Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha, and also through additionalities based on international civil nuclear cooperation.
· There are 21 nuclear power reactors with a total installed generating capacity of 5780 MW of electricity. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) achieved the highest power generation ever of 37835 Million Units (that is, 3783.5 Crore Units) during 2014-15 (7% more than in the previous year), with overall capacity factor of 83% and availability factor of 88%.
· The Kudankulam Unit -1, set up with technical cooperation with Russian Federation, reached its rated capacity of 1000 MW on June 7, 2014, and has begun commercial operations from the end of 2014 and has been supplying electricity to the grid since then. The Kudankulam Unit-2 is getting closer to commissioning. Hot Run, a pre-requisite to Fuel Loading and further commissioning activities, has been completed.
· India has logged over 421 reactor years of safe and reliable operation, as reflected in several operating achievements. Unit-5 of Rajasthan Atomic Power Station completed 765 days of continuous operation on September 6, 2014; the longest in the world in the last 20 years, and the second longest in the 60-year history of nuclear power. So far, continuous operation of more than a year has been logged by Indian Reactors 20 times, including 7 reactors registering this feat during last one year.
· Government’s initiatives to give a boost to the civil nuclear energy sector in India include: civil nuclear agreement with Australia (potential supplier of uranium); Pre-Engineering Agreement signed between NPCIL and AREVA company of France; Supplement to General Framework Agreement with Russian Federation in respect of Kudankulam Units-3&4; formulation of vision document on future cooperation with Russian Federation; efforts to develop and manufacture indigenous components and some critical large size equipment for our 700 MW indigenous Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR), in line with “Make in India goal”, by DAE units.
· The Government has made significant efforts in augmenting fuel supplies from both domestic and foreign sources, thus easing out the fuel-constrained position to a large extent. In this context, during Hon’ble PM’s visit to Canada in April 2015, an agreement was entered into for supply of 3000 tonnes of Uranium ore concentrate over 5 years.
· Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) of DAE achieved record production of fuel (1252 MT) for PHWRs during the past year.
· The construction of Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) is nearing completion at Kalpakkam. Indigenously produced Plutonium-based fuel has been delivered by BARC for the first criticality of PFBR which is expected later this year.
· BARC’s reprocessing plant at Tarapur exceeded its name plate capacity in production of material for PFBR fuel. A comprehensive project on Fast Reactor Fuel Cycle Facility is being set up at Kalpakkam, for the sustained progress of setting up fast breeder reactors in coming future.
· Towards the technology demonstration of thorium utilisation, and advances in indigenous reactor technology development, site selection is about to be finalised for a 300 MW Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR). To give a further thrust to the development of thorium-related technologies, it is proposed to set up a dedicated Centre for Thorium Advanced Research, initially virtually, and later on, as a physical entity. India will be hosting theInternational Thorium Energy Conference (ThEC) in Mumbai in October this year.
Nuclear Technologies for Societal Benefits
· Radiation processing of food and agro products helps in enhancing the shelf-life and marketability, and exports (e.g. spices, fruits etc.) Two Radiation Processing plants were commissioned with DAE technology support at Unnao, Lucknow and Bavla, Ahmedabad in 2014, taking the number of such plants in private sector to twelve (12). More plants are under construction with the support of DAE.
· BARC has developed a crop mutant high-yielding pigeon-pea variety, Trombay Akola Red Arhar, which has been released and Gazette notified for commercial cultivation in Maharashtra. Seed multiplication of BARC varieties has been taken up by the inmates of four (4) prisons in Tamil Nadu; one variety of groundnut seeds (called TG37A; 350 kg given by BARC), has been adopted and shown record yields in prison farm.
· A large number of medical centres in the country are using radiopharmaceuticals supplied by DAE Units, BRIT & BARC, for diagnosis and therapy of certain diseases, particularly cancer. DAE’s supplies are estimated to lead to annually over 2.5 lakhs in-vivo diagnostic investigations, about 15,000 investigations using Positron Emission Tomography (PET), about 20000 therapeutic treatments, as well as about 10 lakhs in-vitro hormone analysis.
· BARC had developed indigenous teletherapy machine, called Bhabhatron, for cancer treatment. One Bhabhatron unit is being supplied to Mongolia, with the technical support of Tata Memorial Centre (TMC), under an agreement signed between TMC and National Cancer Centre of Mongolia, during the visit of Hon’ble Prime Minister to Mongolia in May 2015. During 2014, four (4) Bhabhatron units were supplied (including one exported) by the company manufacturing Bhabhatron with BARC technology.
· Technologies developed by DAE help enhancing the environmental safety, and in turn, support the Swachcha Bharat Abhiyaan. The BARC biogas plant, Nisargruna, for processing bio-waste for production of energy or cooking gas, has been installed in over 190 places until March 2015, including fourteen (14) set up during the past one year. BARC has demonstrated radiation hygienisation of urban sewage sludge for safe disposal, and scope to use the resultant bi-product as organic manure. Radiation plants to efficiently hygienise dry sludge are planned to be set up in Ahmedabad and Nagpur.
· DAE is participating in water quality analysis aspects, as technology provider cum adviser in support of Clean Ganga project.
· India is one of the seven Partners in the largest International Cooperation Project ‘International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER)’ being set up in France for harnessing fusion energy. DAE has initiated the process for acquiring Associate Membership of CERN-LHC, with which DAE Units have active on-going collaboration.
Government of India and DAE look forward to taking the Indian nuclear programme to greater heights and continue rendering valuable service to the society towards sustainable all-round national development.
Ratan Kumar Sinha
Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission and Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy
Disclaimer : The views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of INVC NEWS