India is the only developing country that has achieved self-reliance in the sphere of nuclear fuel cycle activities, amidst several international technology control regimes. Following the enactment of the Atomic Energy Bill in 1948, the Atomic Energy Commission was established on 10 August 1948, with Dr. Homi J. Bhabha as its first chairman.
The commission was entrusted with formulating and implementing the Government’s policy in all matters concerning atomic energy. In 1956, the Government established the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) with the mandate to formulate and implement policies related to atomic energy
- Generation of safe, economically competitive electricity from nuclear energy by exploiting the natural resources of uranium and thorium available in the country;
- Building of research reactors and utilization of radioisotopes produced in them for applications in medicine, agriculture, and industry;
- Development of advanced technology in areas such as accelerators, lasers, biotechnology, information technology, and materials including the development of non-nuclear and strategic materials like titanium;
- Encouraging technology transfers and interaction with industry in areas of its strength, contributing to industrial development;
- Providing support to basic research in nuclear energy and related frontier areas of science, interacting with universities and academic institutions to improve the quality of education and research, and providing research grants to them;
- Encouraging international cooperation in advanced areas of research and in mega science projects to realize the benefits of state-of-the-art science and technologies, and
- Contributing to national security.
Also Read: Atomic Energy Regulatory Board
The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), while performing a key role in the scientific and technological scenario of the country, has also been vital to the overall nation-building exercise.
Equipped with highly trained multi-disciplinary scientific manpower and impressive facilities, the high technologies generated in the various units of the DAE, besides raising nuclear technology to global standards, form part of national scientific and technology missions.
The three-stage Indian nuclear power program, charted by Dr. H. J. Bhabha, aimed at establishing nuclear power with resources comprises the following guidelines:
a) First stage
use of natural uranium in Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR) and production of power and plutonium;
b) Second stage
use of plutonium produced in fast breeder reactors (FBR) and production of additional plutonium/u-233 and power; and
c) Third stage
use of thorium u-233 in an advanced fuel cycle and reactor system (under development).
They have achieved progressive indigenization from Rajasthan Atomic Power Station to Kakrapar Atomic Power Station, and there is also a high level of indigenization in the related nuclear fuel cycle. DAE has also the comprehensive capability to design, construct, operate and maintain related fuel cycle facilities, and many such facilities are operational all over the country.
Also read: India’s Three-Stage Nuclear Power Programme