(IGP) GS Paper 1 - General Science - "India’s Nuclear Programme"

Integrated Guidance Programme of General Studies for IAS (Pre) - 2013

Subject - General Science
Chapter : India’s Nuclear Programme

Atomic Energy

The department of atomic energy (DAE), established on 3 august 1954 is engaged in the development of nuclear power technology, applications of radiations technologies in the field of agriculture, medicine, industry and basic research   

Nuclear Power Programme

DAE has been pursing the following 3 stages nuclear power programme :

  • The first stage comprises setting up of pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs) and associated fuel cycle facilities. In PHWRs natural uranium as fuel and heavy water as modulator and coolant.

  • The second stage envisages setting up of fast breeder reactors (FBIs) backed by reprocessing plants and plutonium –based fuel fabrication plants. Plutonium is produced by irradiation -238.

  • The third stage is based on the thorium -uranium – 233 cycles. Uranium – 233 is obtained by irradiation of thorium.

Nuclear power programme: stage-1

(A) Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors

  • For the Indian nuclear power programme, which took off in the sixties, PHWR was the reactors of choice for the first stage of the programme. However, to gain operational experience, initially an atomic power station comprising two boiling water reactors (BWR) was set up at tarapur, Maharastra. This was a turnkey project of the general electric of USA. Commissioned in 1969, the station is still in operation.

  • The first two PHWRs, at rawatbhata, Rajasthan, started commercial production in 1973 and 1981. The first unit (RAPS-1) was built with the help of the atomic energy of Canada ltd. (AECL). However, the second unit was completed with the indigenous research and development endeavour and the support of the Indian industry. This success followed commissioning of the two 220 MWe reactors at kalpakkam near Chennai, Tamil Nadu, in the years 1884 and 1986. Later, the design of the 20 MWe PHWR was standardized and two reactors of this design were commissioned at Narora, Uttar Pradesh, in 1991 and 1992.

Nuclear power programme – stage: II

(A) Fast Reactor Programme

The second stage of nuclear power generation envisages setting up of fast breeder reactors (FBRs) backed by reprocessing plants and plutonium – based fuel fabrication plants. These fast breeder system produce more fuel than what they consume. FBRs can increase fuel utilization by about sixty times of what is possible with PHWRs.

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Nuclear power programme stage: III

(A) Thorium based Reactors

  • Thorium utilization is the long term core objective of the Indian nuclear power programme for providing energy for the country a sustainable basis. The third stage of the Indian nuclear power programe is based on the thoriumuranium-322 cycle.

  • A beginning has already been made by introducing thorium, in a limited way, in research reactors and in pressurized heavy water reactors.

Radiation Technologies & Applications

DAE’s programme relating to radiation technologies and application covers building and operation of research reactors for production of radioisotopes, and other sources of radiation such as radiation such as accelerators and lasers and developing and deploying radiation technology applications in the field of medicine, agriculture and industry.

(A) Research Reactors

  • The research reactors set up by DAE so far, have been apsara (1mW,fuel: enriched uranium-aluminum alloy), CIRUS (40 MW,fuel:Natural uranium), zerlina (zero energy , natural; uranium), purnima I-III(Fuel: plutonium/uranium-233), Dhruva(100 MW, fuel: Natural uranium) at trombay (maharastra) and kamini (30kW,feul:uranium-233-A1 alloy) and fast breeder test reactors (40 MW, Fuel: uranium-plutonium carbide) at kalpakkam (Tamil Nadu) of the research reactors, zerlina was decommi-ssioned in 1984, and purnima serious made way for kamini.

(B) Radioisotope Production & Processing

  • India is a leading producer of radioisotopes in the world. Radioisotopes are produced in the research reactors at trombay, atomic power reactors at various places in the country and cyclotron at Kolkata.

(C) Applications of Radioisotopes

  • The radioisotopes produced at trombay find wide applications in the field of agriculture and food, medicine and health care, industry, and research. Based on these applications, the following programmers have been established.

(D) Nuclear Agriculture

  • The nuclear agriculture programme of DAE focuses on the use of radiation technology for the development of high yielding crop seeds, radiation processing of food items, fertilizer and pesticide-realated studies and other areas.

(E) Crop Improvement

  • BARC in collaboration with agricultural universities has been engaged in research and development in the field of crop improvement. The center has successfully developed several high yielding crop verities. Of these 29 varieties have been notified and released for commercial cultivation by the ministry of agriculture government of India.

(F) Food Processing

  • These are radiation for demonstration of high and low does applications of radiations. These are radiation processing plant set up BRIT at navi Mumbai for high does radiation processing of spices, and KRUSHAK (krushi utpadan sanrakshan Kendra), set up by BARC at lasalgaon near nashik, for low dose applications of radiations for food preservation. This plant processes onion, pulses, rawa and turmeric.

(G) Nuclear Medicine and Health Care

  • Radioisotopes and their formulations find wide applications in diagnosis, therapy and health care. BARC and BRIT are the main centers of this activity.

  • At BARC, cesium-137 based brachy therapy sources are routinely produced. For treatment of cancer of eye, radiations sources of the size of rice grain, containing 2-3 mille curie of lodine-125, have been produced here. Another salient development is the digital medical imaging system based on a charge coupled device (CCD).

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