India is recognized as one of few countries in the world, which have made considerable advances in the field of atomic energy. Despite the closely guarded nature of this technology at the international level, the country is self-reliant in the same and has established competence in carrying out activities over the entire nuclear fuel cycle. The executive agency for all activities pertaining to atomic energy in the country is the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), which was set-up in 1954. The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) lays down policies pertaining to the functioning of DAE, which was set-up in 1948. The portfolio of DAE has all along been under the charge of the Prime Minister.
The activities of DAE are primarily in the area of nuclear power generation, research and devel-opment in atomic energy and in the industries and minerals sector. ?These activities are carried out by its constituent units, Public Sector Units (PSUs) and by institutions which are given financial assistance by DAE. India has also been offering training facilities, fellowships, scientific visits, etc., and makes avail-able the service of its scientists and engineers for expert assignments in several countries both through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and through bilateral agreements.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NUCLEAR POWER PROGRAMME
When the country?s atomic energy programme was launched in the 1940s, a three-stage nuclear energy programme was envisaged to use the available Uranium and vast Thorium Resources. The first stage was to comprise of Natural Uranium Fuelled Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs), which would produce power, and Plutonium as a by-product. The second stage is expected to have Plutonium Fuelled Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs), which in addition to producing power and Plutonium, will also yield Uranium-233 from Thorium. The third stage reactors would be based on the Thorium Cycle to produce more Uranium-233 for fuelling additional breeder reactors.
The present installed capacity of nuclear power reactors in India is 1,465 MWe. The total elec-tricity generated by nuclear power stations during 1988?89 and 1989?90 was 5,817 and 4,625 million kW hours respectively, and the target for 1990?91 has been fixed at 6850 million units. Excepting for the first two units at Tarapur, which are of the Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) type and were set-up as a turnkey by a United States of America?s company, other power reactors in the country are of the PHWR Type which constitute the first stage of the programme. DAE aims at establishing about 10,000 mW of nuclear power generation capacity from PHWRs during the coming ten to fifteen years. In addition, two reactors o? the Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) type of 1000 mW each are being set-up at Kudankulam, TamilNadu, with the assistance of the USSR. Further, work on a Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) of 500 mW capacities is also expected to be taken up in the near future.
Important inputs for the PHWRs are heavy water and nuclear fuel, which are made available by organisations within DAE. Amongst these, there are units which carry out exploration and survey of Uranium resources and subsequently mining and processing them for production of Uranium Concen-trates. Other units are responsible for production of nuclear fuel and heavy water. Facilities are also available for the back-end of the nuclear fuel cycle to reprocess spent fuel from nuclear power reactors and for management of radioactive wastes.
A significant feature of the Indian Atomic Energy Programme is that it has all long been backed-up by a comprehensive R and D programme encompassing a wide-range of multi-disciplinary activities relating to atomic energy. This includes fundamental research in basic sciences to disciplines like Nu-clear Engineering, Metallurgy, Medicine, Agriculture, Isotopes, etc. Research is also being carried out in FBR technology and frontline areas like fusion, lasers and accelerators.
All the organisations of DAE which are engaged in these activities, can be considered to be one of the following categories, namely, R and D units, PSUs, Industries and Mineral (I and M) sector units, Aided Institutions or Service Sector Units.
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