Dr. Anil Kakodkar
Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission &
Secretary to the Government of India,
Department of Atomic Energy
Today we have assembled here to pay homage to our Founder Father, Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha. Dr.Bhabha gave us the vision to build the Atomic Energy Programme to contribute to national development. Dr. Bhabha also created a blueprint for this programme and laid a solid foundation on which successive generations of members of DAE family have built and brought it to its present stage. This broad based scientific programme covering almost all science and engineering disciplines spans the entire Research, Development, Demonstration and Deployment chain. It is a matter of some satisfaction that the world today recognizes India as a country with advanced nuclear technology. Our programme is now well poised for a rapid growth both in terms of deployment of technologies that have been developed as well as in terms of development of new technologies.
The year that has gone by has seen a number of new achievements. Unit 4 of the Tarapur Atomic Power Station, the first 540 MWe PHWR designed and developed indigenously, has commenced commercial operation seven months ahead of schedule. Unit 1 of the Kakrapar Atomic Power Station operated continuously for more than a year setting a new benchmark for reactor operation in the country. The unique indigenously developed Plutonium-rich mixed carbide fuel used in Fast Breeder Test Reactor has performed extremely well upto a burn-up of around 150,000 MWd/t without a single fuel pin failure. Another important achievement during the year was the successful reprocessing of FBTR fuel that was discharged at a burn-up of 100,000 MWd/t. This is the first time that Plutonium carbide fuel has been reprocessed in the world. FBTR is now 20 year old and has proved to be an important test bed for development of technologies for fast breeder reactors. As a part of development of higher burn-up fuel for PHWRs, 25 MOX fuel bundles were successfully irradiated at a burn-up of about 11,000 MWd/t. This year we have introduced an additional 25 MOX fuel bundles in one of our PHWRs. The construction of five more PHWRs is progressing on schedule. These along with 2 x 1000 MWe advanced VVER reactors that are under construction at Kundankulam in collaboration with Russian Federation would contribute 3420 MWe additional capacity in about three years time. This would take the total nuclear power generation capacity to about 6700 MWe.
The construction of 500 MWe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor has picked up momentum, after a disruption that was caused as a result of the tsunami. The development of four sites for setting up of additional nuclear power units has been recently approved by the Government. We have also commenced work to identify additional sites for further expansion of the nuclear power programme.
With a view to augment the availability of natural uranium fuel for PHWRs, we are pursuing an aggressive mine construction programme. The Banduhurang mine and the Turamdih mill are fast nearing completion. Our scientists have been very successful in developing an innovative process for commercially viable leaching of uranium ore from Tummalapalle. Similarly we have initiated projects for recovery of uranium from phosphoric acid in collaboration with our partners.
En-masse coolant channel replacement and other safety upgradation jobs in the Madras Atomic Power Station Unit-1 are nearing completion and the Unit is expected to be back in operation by the end of this year. We have taken up further refurbishing activities at Tarapur Atomic Power Station as well as at the Narora Atomic Power Station. It is a matter of considerable satisfaction and pride that the technologies for the coolant channel repair work have continuously improved and now we are ready to use a laser-based coolant channel cutting technology which has been recently developed by the Centre for Advanced Technology, Indore.
The 2.5 GeV Synchrotron Radiation Source INDUS-2 has been fully assembled and integrated at the Centre for Advanced Technology, Indore. All subsystems have been made operational and initial experiments to store electrons in the ring have commenced. The Steady State Superconducting Tokamak SST-1 at the Institute of Plasma Research is nearing completion. It is on the basis of the experience and the capability that has been built in the country as a result of the work on this project that we are now looking forward to joining the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project as a full partner. Our contribution to the CERN has kept pace with programmes of building Large Hadron Collider there along with its detectors CMS and ALICE.
In the area of applications of radiation and isotope technology it is a matter of considerable satisfaction to see that several radiation processing plants are under construction in the private and cooperative sectors. Radiation processing using electron beams is another area where we are now on the threshold of significant scale deployment of this technology in the country. The Advanced Centre for Treatment, Research and Education in Cancer (ACTREC) is now functional. We have high expectations out of advanced research activities in this institution. A state-of-the-art Cobalt Teletherapy Machine `Bhabhatron', developed through coordinated efforts of BARC and TMC and the industrial partner, is another example of robust high-technology development that can be realized by diverse teams working together.
Dear colleagues, having recalled with pride some of the important developments that have taken place last year, I now wish to turn to some of the challenges ahead. We, of course, have challenges related to our vision of quickly developing a commercially robust Fast Breeder Reactor Technology to be followed by utilization of Thorium for energy production on a large scale. While we do so, we have to quickly build technologies which enable short doubling time and capability for growth even with Thorium systems. Clearly we will need to pursue a path quite different from the rest of the world. This choice of a different path is necessitated by our unique situation of having to depend on thorium for our energy production in the long run. Development of a basket of technologies to be deployed in a chosen sequence is thus inevitable for us to minimize heavy dependence on imported nuclear fuel in the long run. With the comprehensive capability across the entire research, development, demonstration and deployment chain that we possess in our Department, I feel very confident that we will be successful in meeting this challenge. We must remain on this path despite the possible additionalities that might come in through opening up of civilian nuclear cooperation with other countries. Our objective is to maximize the contribution of nuclear power both in the short run as well as in the long run.
There are a number of additional technologies that we must continue to work on. These include advanced accelerator and laser technologies and their applications and also further advances in the back-end of the fuel cycle technologies to make them commercially more robust and viable. There is also the necessity to develop High Temperature Nuclear Reactor Technology for production of Hydrogen which would soon emerge as another carrier of energy in addition to electricity.
We have made good progress on the applications of radiation and isotope technologies. Considering our large population needing developmental inputs, the potential for turn over in radiation and isotope technology applications is perhaps comparable or larger than nuclear power. In this context we need to quickly develop high specific activity cesium radiation sources based on selective extraction of the isotope from spent fuel. This will not only make radiation processing more competitive but also result in economy in waste management through significant reduction in heat generation in waste products.
Our laboratories engaged in basic research have earned a place for themselves. We have taken some new initiatives to bridge the basic research - Technology domains as well as to create special opportunities for promising young researchers. These initiatives are important to enhance our success rate in new innovative approaches that we would need to adopt for our unique programme.
Human resource has been our strength. In the years to come we will have to lay special emphasise on further building up of our human resource capabilities and empowerment. The Homi Bhabha National Institute (HBNI) is an initiative in this direction. HBNI along with our broad-based research collaboration with Universities and Research laboratories in India and abroad should enable us to realize the twin objectives of rapid rate of progress of our R&D capabilities as well as attracting additional young researchers.
Dear colleagues, the journey of self-reliance, walking on a path different from that taken by others and remaining detached from attractions of greener pastures have been some of the important values we have cherished in the DAE family. I am aware of the psychological tension this creates when comparisons are made with our counterparts outside. However, our successes in the nation building are our best rewards. Our efforts are largely group efforts and in this effort we derive support and strength from the working of our colleagues at all levels. That we are able to work together and meet any challenge that comes in our way is our special strength and on the basis of this strength, I have no doubt that we will continuously enhance our contributions towards betterment of the quality of life of our fellow citizens. I wish all of you success in this endeavour.