Atomic Energy Commission

Atomic Energy Commission:– 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. With 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 the formulation and implementation of the policy of the Government in all matters concerning atomic energy. Subsequently, in 1956, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) was established with the following mandate:

  • 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, interaction 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
  • They are contributing to national security.

While performing a key role in the country’s scientific and technological scenario, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) 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). Progressive indigenization has been achieved from Rajasthan Atomic Power Station to Kakrapar Atomic Power Station and also a high level of indigenization exists in the related nuclear fuel cycle. DAE also has the comprehensive capability to design, construct, operate and maintain related fuel cycle facilities, and many such facilities are operational all over the country.  

Atomic Energy Commission                                          

DAE has under its aegis –      

  • Five Research Centers
    • Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC)- Mumbai
    • Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR)-Kalpakkam (Tamil Nadu)
    • Centre for Advanced Technology (CAT)- Indore (Madhya Pradesh)
    • Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre (VECC)-Calcutta
    • Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration & Research (AMD)- Hyderabad

Three Industrial Organisations

  • Heavy Water Board (HWB)-Mumbai
    • Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC)- Hyderabad

Board of Radiation & Isotope Technology (BRIT)-Mumbai

Four Public Sector Undertakings

  • Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL)-Mumbai
    • Uranium Corporation of India Ltd. (UCIL)-Jaduguda (Bihar)
    • Indian Rare Earth Ltd. (IRE)-Mumbai
    • Electronics Corporation of India Ltd. (ECIL)-Hyderabad

Four Service Organisations

  • Directorate of Purchase & Stores (DPS)-Mumbai
    • Construction, Services & Estate Management Group (CS&EMG)-Mumbai
    • General Services Organisation (GSO)-Kalpakkam (Tamil Nadu)
    • Atomic Energy Education Society (AEES)-Mumbai

DAE also financially supports seven autonomous Research Institutes

  • Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR)- Mumbai
    • Tata Memorial Centre (TMC)-Mumbai
    • Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics (SINP)-Calcutta
    • Institute of Physics (IOP)- Bhubaneshwar
    • Mehta Research Institute of Mathematics & Mathematical Physics (MRI)-Allahabad
    • Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMSc)-Chennai
    • Institute for Plasma Research (IPR)-Ahmedabad

AEES also gets financial support from DAE

Indian Rare Earths Limited (IREL), a public sector undertaking [PSU] unit of DAE, processes minerals into products that are not only of value to the Department but also useful to other users in the country and outside. Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC), Hyderabad fabricates fuel and structural components for all operating power reactors, thorium blankets, and structural components for FBTR

In the recent past, NFC developed special alloys for use in the space program for the country – a major milestone in import substitution. NFC along with IRE has succeeded in producing pure zirconia crystal, popularly known as American diamonds.

The Heavy Water Board designs build and operate its own heavy water plants which not only meet the country’s requirements but have given India an export capability.

Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) was established to cater to the nuclear, radiological, instrumentation, and control requirements for the country’s nuclear power program. This was the first window of DAE for technology transfer in commercial and industrial electronics.                                                                   

At present 80 percent of the products of this commercial venture serve core sectors of the nation like telecommunication, defense, space, steel, petrochemical, and thermal power plants for their instrumentation and control computer application needs. ECIL has received the award for excellence in Strategic Electronics in 1994 from the Department of Electronics.

The activities of the Department of Atomic Energy under the Industry & Minerals sector in the Ninth Plan pertain to the requirement of heavy water, nuclear fuel, instruments, and controls, spent fuel recovery, and waste disposal for the nuclear power reactors. The Uranium Corporation of India Ltd. (UCIL) completed its project of uranium Mining and Mill at Narwapahar, Bihar.

The Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) took up five new projects for implementation in the Eighth Five Year Plan (1992-1997) for meeting the fuel requirements of the new nuclear power reactors. Three of the NFC’s projects namely, the New Zircaloy Fabrication Plant, New Uranium Oxide Plant, and New Fuel Assembly Plant are at advanced stages of completion. The two remaining projects namely Zirconium Sponge Plant and Titanium Sponge Plant are yet to start.

Bhabha Atomic Research Centre

On 3 June 1998 BARC got hacked by activist group milw0rm, consisting of teenagers from the United States, United Kingdom, and New Zealand. They downloaded classified information, defaced the website, and deleted data from servers.

BARC also designed and built India’s first Pressurised water reactor at Kalpakkam, an 80MW land-based prototype of INS Arihant’s nuclear power unit, as well as the Arihant’s propulsion reactor.

Bhabha Atomic Research Centre offers creative and rewarding career opportunities to young qualified men and women who like challenges in frontline areas of Nuclear Science and Technology and are keen to be a part of the expanding Indian nuclear power program. Ample prospects are available for pursuing innovative research in Physics, Chemistry, Geology, Geophysics, Engineering, and Biosciences at BARC and other DAE units.

The primary importance of BARC is as a research center. The BARC and the Indian government have consistently maintained that the reactors are used for this purpose only: Apsara (1956; named by the then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru when he likened the blue Cerenkov radiation to the beauty of the Apsaras), CIRUS (1960; the “Canada-India Reactor” with assistance from the US), the now-defunct ZERLINA (1961; Zero Energy Reactor for Lattice Investigations and Neutron Assay), Purnima I (1972), Purnima II (1984), Dhruva (1985), Purnima III (1990), and KAMINI.         

Atomic Energy Commission

Nuclear research in India began in 1945 with the founding of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) under the leadership of Homi Jehangir Bhabha. With the creation in 1954 of the Atomic Energy Establishment at Trombay and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Bhabha and all scientists working on programs of direct relevance to applications of nuclear power were transferred from TIFR to Trombay.                   

After the death of Homi Bhabha in an air crash in 1966, the Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay was renamed the Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC). Today, BARC is India’s primary research and development institution focused on indigenous nuclear power and other applications of nuclear technology.

The staff of BARC conducts research in almost every aspect of nuclear technology. Although many of these research projects have civilian applications, BARC also plays a leading role in India’s nuclear weapon program.              

BARC has been tasked with developing the technological independence needed to fulfill India’s strategy for nuclear energy. This strategy envisions a closed fuel cycle involving the reprocessing of spent fuel from India’s Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) to provide plutonium for India’s Fast Breeder Reactor (FBRs).

BARC is also attempting to develop Advanced Heavy Water Reactors (AHWRs) utilizing thorium-based fuel with a small feed of plutonium. The final stage of India’s nuclear strategy, calls for the development of “dedicated breeder reactors based on uranium-233 and thorium” in order to take advantage of India’s vast thorium deposits.

Much of the technology involved in the proposed fuel cycle raises proliferation concerns as its a continual source of unsafeguarded fissile material for nuclear weapons.

READ MORE:-India’s Three-Stage Nuclear Power Programme

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