Genesis of Atomic Energy in India

Homi Bhabha

After India attained independence the Atomic Energy Commission was set up in 1948 for framing policies in respect of development of atomic energy in the country. The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) was established in 1954 with Dr. Bhabha as Secretary to implement the policies framed by the Atomic Energy Commission. Sir J.R.D Tata was one of the longest serving members in the Atomic Energy Commission and played a significant role in shaping the policies related to atomic energy program in the country. The Atomic Energy Establishment was set up at Trombay, near Mumbai in 1957 and was renamed Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) ten years later.

The atomic energy program, which was initiated in a modest manner initially, has now grown as a wide spectrum, multi dimensional multidisciplinary with 63 organizations under DAE. The spectrum of these significant activities include R&D in Nuclear Sciences and Engineering, Exploration & Mining of Radioisotopes Nuclear energy development and implementation, application of Nuclear Energy, Bio-Agricultural Research, Medical Sciences etc.

India’s commercial Nuclear Power program started in 1969 with the commissioning of Tarapur Atomic Power Station (TAPS) in Maharashtra and currently has 20 operating reactors of various types. Country’s progress could have been much better if the international ban (due to non-signing of NPT) was not placed in 1974.

Why India did not Sign NPT?
India could only join the NPT if it disarmed and joined as a Non Nuclear Weapons State, which was politically impossible.

As a result of the ban,India’s nuclear power program has proceeded largely without fuel or technological assistance from other countries. Reflecting the technical difficulties of the country’s isolation, the power reactors to the mid 1990s had some of the world’s lowest capacity factors, but rose impressively from 60% in 1995 to 85% in 2001-02.  Then in 2008-10 the load factors dropped due to shortage of uranium fuel.

Atomic energy activities in the country are governed by the Atomic Energy Act. The commercial nuclear power program of the first stage (comprising of PHWRs and imported LWRs) is being implemented by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), and the second stage (comprising of Fast Breeder Reactors) by Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited (BHAVINI). Both companies are fully owned by the union government.

You may read the full report in pdf format: Nuclear_Energy_Scenario_India

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