Inevitability of nuclear energy

Ramanna, Raja (1997) Inevitability of nuclear energy Current Science, 73 (4). pp. 319-326. ISSN 0011-3891


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The Indian Atomic Energy Programme that had been launched in the late 1940s, with the courageous vision of Homi Bhabha, had made remarkable progress during the fifties, sixties and till the mid-seventies, leading to the establishment of a comprehensive base of nuclear science, technology and engineering, and the setting up of nuclear power stations. After the Pokharan experiment in 1974, the programme had to face a hostile attitude from the Western powers, with the stoppage of flow of technology and equipment from the West. The programme had shown the resilience to face the challenge, and march ahead, developing a range of indigenous capabilities both within the Department and in the Indian industry, though with a certain loss in the momentum. The successful design, construction and operation of the 100Mw(t) research reactor Dhruva in Trombay, and the successful commissioning of the Fast Breeder Test Reactor in Kalpakkam, with a unique plutonium-uranium carbide fuel of Indian design, are significant capability demonstrations in the latter phase. On the power front, the twin-unit power stations at Narora (UP) and Kakrapar (Gujarat) have shown excellent performance, with respect to plant availability and capacity factor. This article presents an assessment of the progress achieved so far, amidst the difficulties encountered. Factors accounting for the apparently slow pace of growth are discussed, and the public concerns regarding nuclear safety and safety regulations are also addressed. In a situation where acute power shortages have become a fact of life, and difficulties can be foreseen in the development of coal and hydel resources (which are also limited in extent), the importance of pursuing the nuclear energy option is re-iterated. The need for unstinted government support to the program at this crucial stage is also emphasized.

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