India and Nuclear Energy
The entire world is running out of fuel day by day. Enormous efforts have been made by renowned scientists in search of alternative source other than fossil fuels to feed the locomotives.
But none of those ideas have favoured the humankind in full measure. Still nothing can compensate for the depletion of fossil fuels. Like all other natural resources, nuclear energy is an invaluable gift of God. The credit for the blending of nuclear resources to the livelihood of a common man is bagged up by the chauvinist-cum-curious attitude of belligerent folks.
On analysing the chronology of nuclear energy, we find that several human brains were meticulously involved in changing this moonshine energy, as described by Ernest Rutherford, who was better known as father of nuclear physics, to reality.
Whenever the evolution of mankind is questioned or investigated, world uses to quote such transformation with this ideology7 “Necessity is the mother of invention”. Things and stuff which are so mandatory, come under the category of needs. But in the case of nuclear energy, this ideology fails. Almost at the cusp of World War II, several governments, i.e. precisely the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the Soviet Union were ready to extend warm hands and hearts to develop nuclear energy just to amass wealth and to generate woe among foes without envisaging that this kind of attitude will ruin their own wisdom.
Attitude to dominate others introduced the evil face of nuclear energy to the world. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the very first victims of nuclear energy. Recently, Iran was targeted by the USA just because of nuclear energy. Nuclear energy has been turned into a sign of prestige and superiority. It even decides the status of a country among world nations. The term nuclear energy became familiar in the streets of India only after 1956.
India’s first Nuclear Reactor was Apsara. It was also the first nuclear reactor in Asia. Apsara went critical at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Trombay on August 4, 1956. It heralded the arrival of India’s nuclear energy programme. Dr. Homi Bhabha, who was better known as father of Indian nuclear programme, conceptualised the design of the reactor. It was an indigenous project being
built by the passion, sweat and dedicated work of the Indian scientist in a record time of 15 months. Our former prime minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru named the reactor Apsara which literally refers to divine and celestial beauty.
Later on, India experienced benefits from various nuclear reactors assisted by world nations, especially Canada, USA and Russia. Besides assistance, agreements which would ensure the usage of nuclear energy for comforting the mankind and not to build coffins were monitored with utmost care. Such agreements are RAPP-1, signed in 1963, and followed by RAPP-2 in 1966. These reactors contained rigid safeguards to ensure that they would not be used for a military programme. ‘The United States and Canada terminated their assistance after the detonation of India’s first nuclear explosion in 1974.
1974 marked a watershed in India’s scientific heights. It is very apt to say that developments and dangers are twins. India is a not an exceptional example in this case. Pokhran I coded as “the smiling Buddha”, scripted our nation’s name in the list of nuclear weapon-possessing countries. This was also the first confirmed nuclear test by a nation outside the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. A knife can be used to cut vegetables and may serve as a kitchen utensil but it may be used to kill fellow folks. Nuclear energy’satisfies the above-mentioned purpose. Officially, Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MoEA) claims this test as peaceful nuclear explosion, but it was also a part of an accelerated nuclear programme. The weapon yield remains uncertain, with estimates of up to eight kilo tonnes. The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) on its website claimed that the smiling Buddha nuclear test may have only been partially successful. As a matter of fact, these conclusions have no evidence but express only envy.
The soils and sacredness of the Rajasthan once again experienced nuclear test in 1998. It was Pokhran II which earned pride and fear from world nations. It consisted of five detonations, of which the first was a fusion bomb and the remaining four were fission bombs. These nuclear tests resulted in a variety of sanctions against India by a number of major countries, including Japan and the United States.
India has even refused to go in accord with Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. This Treaty refers to a network costing one. billion dollars, which is more precisely in Indian value Rs. 6,000 crore to monitor the nuclear test all over the world.
Since 1945, about 2,000 nuclear bomb tests have been conducted by the global powers, with India having conducted two sets of nuclear explosions in 1974 and 1998. China has conducted 45 nuclear bomb tests, the USA more than a thousand. Comparing and analysing all these strategies, India’s venture in nuclear weapon test was not a big deal. India has even declared unilateral moratorium regarding nuclear test after 1998 Pokhran II.
Nehruji clearly explained India’s nuclear policy in these words : “We must develop this atomic energy quite apart from war—indeed I think, we must develop it for the purpose of using it for peaceful purposes. …Of course, if we are compelled as a nation to use it for other purposes, possibly no pious sentiments of any of us will stop the nation from using it that way”. Border agitations and terrorist ventures strengthen the above-mentioned policy to a great extent.
Electricity has been an integral part of the day-to-day life. Fourth largest source of electricity in India is the nuclear energy. As of 2012, India has 20 nuclear reactors in operation in six nuclear power plants generating 4,780 MW while seven other reactors are under construction and are expected to generate an additional 5,300 MW To a common man in street, nuclear energy symbolises revolts, disputes, people’s unrest, revolutions rather than developments in science.
Kudankulam is one among the breaking news in the past 12 years. It has been a keyword for several vibrant social activists. Fukushima disaster added fuel to the fire. It is not fair to deny the hazardous effects of nuclear programme. Several sources and even our former prime minister had blamed the American and Scandinavian NGO’s for instilling the anti-nuclear strategy among the local inhabitants as the project is a Russian collaboration. Rs. 8,68,000 crore, precisely the sweat and hard work of Indians, are invested in the Kudankulam project. Digging well is not a matter of task, but we should ensure whether it serves to pacify the people’s
thirst or it engulfs people and returns them as corpses.
Before the Fukushima disaster, 54 nuclear reactors provided 30 percent of Japan’s electricity. The Japanese government had planned on increasing that amount to 50 percent by 2030 with two new reactors that were under construction, 12 more planned reactors, and a used-fuel management strategy that included recycling used nuclear fuel, which was in the near-final stage of implementation. Today, only 11 reactors remain in operation, with work halted on other projects. Whereas in India, nuclear energy’s contribution to our electricity needs is just 10 percent. Effective and instantaneous rehabilitation measures and safety strategy should be provided to the local inhabitants. This aspect is quite ridiculous attempt in India, where we can witness ample number of scams and scandals. This at sixes and seven States can wipe out the entire population if we receive a bolt of lightning, which lack perfect administration with instantaneous actions.
The future of the present government’s efforts towards the civilian nuclear agreements is yet another strategy’ which will design the destiny of our nation. As, these are just in planning phase, let time and actions decide the fate.
The entire pool of scholars and scientists was puzzled about the disposal of nuclear waste in a harmless manner. Resources claim that India has about 80 to 100 nuclear weapons. Considerable number of nuclear weapons have been possessed by our neighbouring countries too. But India sticks to no-first-to-use policy which once again ensures the integrity and genuine attitude of our nation. The fate of the future generation is largely dependent on the nuclear weapons and energy. Our country’s GDP has to be propelled by a reasonable amount by the nuclear energy programmes.
For a nation like India, being a home to 125 crore people and being applauded as the world’s largest democratic nation, nuclear energy is a wise choice of power generation. Such a densely populated nation is too vulnerable. Our history and future do not want to encrypt another Chernobyl incident or Fukushima disaster. A perfect solution to all these conflicts is to seek a renewable energy source which is safe and secure also, i.e., wind energy, solar power, etc.
With concerted and dedicated efforts in the past four and half decades, India has been successful in establishing a self-reliant nuclear power industry. It has developed expertise in all stages of the nuclear fuel cycle, i.e., right from exploration and mining of atomic minerals, preparation of high purity nuclear materials (like Uranium, Thorium, Zirconium etc.), to production of fuel elements for reactors, production of heavy water and safety disposal of nuclear wastes.
The prime objective of the atomic energy program, as defined in the Atomic Energy Act of 1948, is the development, control and use of atomic energy solely for peaceful purposes, namely, the generation of electricity and the development of nuclear applications in research, agriculture, industry, medicine and other areas. To achieve this objective, efforts were initiated to build up.
(i) A versatile infrastructure of research facilities, (ii) trained scientific and technical man-power, (iii) raw material processing centres, (iv) the know-how and capabilities to manufacture nuclear components and electronic equipments to support the atomic energy programs, and (v) the technology of safe disposal of nuclear wastes.
Thus, making truly self-reliant India started work on the peaceful utilization of nuclear energy at a time when it was essential very much of a frontier science, into which a few developed countries alone had ventured. The men largely responsible for that during its early years were Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and Dr. Homi Bhabha. They visualized the crucial role to be played by nuclear energy in future to bring India out of hunger and poverty. Pandit Nehru considered nuclear power vital for reconstruction and rehabilitation of an industrially and economically weak India and emphasized its use only for peaceful purposes in the constituent Assembly on April 4, 1948.
Three-Tier Power Programme
India's nuclear programme has envisaged three stages in the country's atomic energy development for peaceful purposes:
(i) Building of heavy water moderated reactors which could produce power as well as plutonium needed to start the breeders.
(ii) Utilizing the plutonium produced from first stage reactors in the fast breeders. This stage will continue until suitable thoriunvuranium-233 reactors become available, and
(iii) To run stage-II type breeders on the thorium- Uranium-233 cycle.
India aims at establishing 10,000 MW of nuclear power generation capacity from Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) by 2000 A.D. which is expected to contribute about 10 per cent of country's total power generation capacity at that time. Present contribution is only 3 per cent of total power generation capacity.