India’s Nuclear Programme

Atomic Energy is the energy produced by atoms, which is also referred as Nuclear Energy. It is created during nuclear reactions. It is obtained by either Nuclear fission or fusion.

Nuclear fission is the process in which heavy nucleus is broken down into two or more medium heavy fragments. It is used in nuclear reactor and atom bombs. Whereas, Nuclear fusion is the process which involves fusion of two or more lighter nuclei to give a heavier nuclei. It occurs only at extremely high temperatures and hence, they are called thermonuclear reactions.

Nuclear Chain Reactions

A chain reaction refers to the process in which neutrons release in fission produce an additional fission in atleast one further nucleus. This nucleus in turn produces neutrons and the process repeats.

  • A Uranium-235 atom absorbs a neutron and fissions into two neutrons and a large amount of binding energy.
  • One of those neutrons is absorbed by an atom of U-238 and does not continue the reaction. Another neutron leaves the system without being absorbed.
  • Both of these neutrons collide with U-235 atoms each of the fissions and release a few neutrons, which can then continue the reaction.

Mechanism of Nuclear Power Generation

  • In Nuclear Power Plants, uranium fuel undergoes nuclear fission and generates an enormous amount of heat. The heat makes high-temperature and high-pressure steam that rotates turbines to generate electricity.
  • Light Water Reactors use light water as coolant and moderator. Coolant removes heat produced during nuclear fission from a reactor core. Moderator reduces the speed of neutrons produced in nuclear fission to facilitate further fission reaction and sustain a chain reaction.
  • A control rod controls the power of a nuclear reactor. By inserting control rods, excessive fission is prevented. A reactor containment vessel, made of steel, accommodates a reactor pressure vessel. The primary water loop transmits that through the tubewalls to the surrounding water of the secondary cooling system to generate steam and rotate turbines.

Development of Nuclear Energy in India

The Atomic Energy Commission was established on 10th August 1948 by the enactment of Atomic Energy Bill in 1948. Dr. Homi J bhabha was its first chairman. The Commission was entrusted with the formulation and implementation of the policy of the government in all matters concerning atomic energy. Thereafter, the Department of Atomic Energy was set up on 3rd August 1954, under the direct charge of Prime Minister through a presidential order.

On 3rd January, 1954, Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay was established by the Atomic Energy Commission. It was renamed as Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in 1967. It consolidates all nuclear reactor research and technology related developments in India.

Nuclear Research Reactor in India

Apsara – It is the oldest, designed by BARC (Bhabha Atomic Research Centre) and built with the assistance of UK. It was located at Trombay and was permanently shut down in the year 2010.

Cirus- it was also located at Trombay, and was built with the assistance of Canada. In 2010, it was also permanently shut down.

Zerlina –  it is the India’s third research reactor. It was indigenously built and decommissioned in 1983.

Kamini- It is a research reactor at IGCAR (Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research) in Kalpakkam, India. It was first reactor in the world designed specifically to use U-233 as fuel.

Dhurva- it is the India’s largest research reactor and primary source of weapons-grade plutonium.

Fast Breeder Test Reactor-  it is jointly designed by BARC (Bhabha Atomic Research Centre) and IGCAR (Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research). It is a liquid metal (liquid sodium) Fast Breed Reactor which is based on the French Rapsodie design.

Advance Heavy Water Reactor- it will use thorium based mixed oxide fuel with a small feedstock of plutonium to generate power. This research included the development of indigenous equipment for the production of thorium dioxide powder and trials with uranium oxide.

Atomic Energy Centres in IndiaPlace
Board of Radiation and Isotope Technology (IBRIT)Mumbai
Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC)Trombay near Pune
Indian Rare Earths LimitedMumbai
Atomic Mineral DirectorateHyderabd
Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic ResearchKalpakkam
Variable Energy Cyelotron CentreKolkata
Centre for Adanced TechnologyIndore
Tata Institute of Fundamental ResearchMumbai
Nuclear Fuel ComplexHyderabad
Saha Institute of Nuclear PhysicsKolkata
Insitute of Plasma ResearchAhemdabad

Conclusion –

India’s three stage nuclear programme was formulated by Dr. Homi Bhabha in the 1950 to secure the country’s long term ‘energy independence’ through the use of uranium and thorium reserves found in the monazite sands of South India. The ultimate focus of the programme is on enabling the thorium reserves of India to be utilized in meeting the country’s requirement.


Magbook on General Science (Arihant Publications (India) ltd.) 203

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