India’s Latest Atomic Feat And History

India's Latest Atomic Feat And History

Adding to the goal of increasing nuclear power generation in India, the Kakrapar plant recently expanded its capacity and added to the long and complex history of nuclear development in India. Let us dive deep into India’s atomic history.
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Crux of the Matter

Kakrapar Plant
On 22 July, 2020, the 3rd unit of the Kakrapar Atomic Power Plant (KAPP-3) in Gujarat achieved criticality, which is the stage where a reactor is ready for electricity generation. The reactor is of the type Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) with a capacity of 700MW. PM Narendra Modi called the achievement a “shining example of make in India”.

The reactor is the biggest variant of the Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) made in India. The achievement is part of India’s plan to make new reactors of 9,000 MW capacity, with 9 reactors currently in construction while having a total capacity of 6,700 MW.

History Of Nuclear Development In India

  • 1948: The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was established, with Homi Bhabha appointed as the chairman.
  • 1954: The Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay (AEET) for nuclear research and development was established.
  • In the same year, the Department of Atomic Energy was formed and placed AEC and nuclear research institutes under PM Office.
  • Canada supplied the CIRUS reactor to India for research purposes, with the US agreeing to provide 21 tonnes of heavy water.
  • 1969: The Tarapur Atomic Power Station began operation, being the first commercial nuclear power station made in India.
  • 1973: Heavy water reactor Rajasthan-1 starts operating at Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS).
  • 1974: India carried out its first successful nuclear test, codenamed “Smiling Buddha”, as part of Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNE).
  • 1984: The first 220 MWe heavy water reactor at Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) began operations.
  • 1987: The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) was established.
  • 1993: The first reactor KAPS-1 of the Kakrapar Atomic Power Station (KAPS) began operations.
  • 1998: India conducts the famous nuclear tests in Pokhran.

Indigenous Three Stage Nuclear Development
Homi Bhabha had devised the “Three Stage” nuclear power programme in 1954 to use Thorium instead of Uranium, as India contains 25% of the world’s Thorium reserves, in contrast to having only 2% of the world’s Uranium reserves.

  • Stage 1: Use of Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR).
    These reactors would be fueled by natural/un-enriched Uranium and would generate Plutonium-239 (Pu-239) as byproduct.
  • Stage 2: Fast Breeder Reactors use mixed-oxide fuel, produced using Pu-239. These reactors would have the Pu-239 undergo fission to produce energy, and would have the mixed-oxide fuel. The Mixed oxide would react with enriched Uranium to produce more Pu-239. Thorium is then used to produce Uranium-233, once sufficient Pu-239 builds up.
  • Stage 3: Uses advanced nuclear power systems. This system would use Thorium-232 with Uranium-233. It would be a thermal breeding reactor, and would be able to make large scale use of Thorium occurring naturally in India in large quantities.
  • Ernest Rutherford was a New Zealand–born British physicist who came to be known as the father of nuclear physics. In early work, Rutherford discovered the concept of radioactive half-life, the radioactive element radon, and differentiated and named alpha and beta radiation.
  • Pandora’s Promise is a 2013 documentary film about the nuclear power debate. Its central argument is that nuclear power, which still faces historical opposition from environmentalists, is a relatively safe and clean energy source which can help mitigate the serious problem of anthropogenic global warming.
  • Otto Hahn was a German chemist and pioneer in the fields of radioactivity and radiochemistry. He discovered radioactive isotopes of radium, thorium, protactinium, and uranium. He also discovered the phenomena of radioactive recoil and nuclear isomerism.