Chemistry : Nuclear Energy


With the enactment of the Atomic Energy Bill in 1948, India had planned to harness the atomic energy for peaceful purposes, almost fifty years ago. The Atomic Energy Commission was established on 10 August 1948 with Dr Homi J Bhabha as its chairman. Subsequently in 1954, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) was established.

DAE also financially supports seven autonomous Research Institutes viz., Tata Institute of Fundamental Research-Mumbai, Tata Memorial Centre- Mumbai, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics-Calcutta, Institute of Physics- Bhubaneswar, Mehta Research Institute-Allahabad, Maths Science Institute- Chennai, and the Institute for Plasma Research-Ahmedabad. The Board ofResearch in Nuclear Sciences (BRNS) and the National Board for Higher Mathematics (NBHM) of DAE promote research in nuclear and allied fields, and mathematics respectively.


The DAE has been pursuing the following 3-stage Nuclear power programme (i) The first stage comprises setting up of pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) and associated fuel cycle facilities. (ii) The second stage envisages setting up of fast breeder reactors (FBRs) with Plutonium based fuel fabrication plants. (iii) The third stage will be based on the thorium – uranium – 233 cycle. Uranium 233 is obtained by irradiation of thorium. The Nuclear power corporation of India Ltd. is responsible for the design, construction and operation of nuclear power reactors. The company operates 17 (2 Boiling water reactors and 15 pressurised heavy reactors) reactors with a total capacity of 4120 MWe. NPCIL is also constructing 5 PHWRS with a total capacity of 2660 MWe. The Indira Gandhi Cenre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) has been engaged in the design and development of liquid sodium cooled fast breader reactors.

 RESEARCH CENTRES : Department of Atomic Energy has five research centers–

1. Babha Atomic Research Centre (BARC)- Established in 1957, it is located at Trombay (Maharashtra), and is India’s largest atomic research for R&D.

2. Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research- Established in 1971, it is located at Kalpakkam (Chennai). The centre carries out research and development of indigenous technology of sodium cooled fast breeder reactors (FBTR). The center constructed a 40 Mw thermal FBTR and 13 Mw electrical FBTR, and was commissioned in December 1985. India is now the first country in developing countries and seventh in the world to have developed FBTR technology.

3. Centre for advanced Technology (CAT)- Established in 1984, it is located at Indore. The center carries out reaearch and development of high technology in fields like laser, fusion and accelerators. Synchrotron Radium Sources (SCR) Indus-1 and Indus-2 are being constructed by CAT.

4. Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre (VECC) – VECC is situated in Kolkata and it delivers beams of nuclear particles for research in nuclear sciences and produces isotopes for various applications. It also comes under the administration of BARC.

5. Atomic minerals Division- It is situated in Hyderabad and is engaged in exploration of atomic minerals. AMU has discovered reserves of 78,000 tonnes of uranium oxide and has led to opening of uranium mine at Jadugnada, Bhatin and Narwapahar in Bihar. Also, it has discovered Uranium ore at Domiasiat (Meghalaya); Lambapur – Yellapur and Tummalapale in Andhra Pradesh.

Nuclear fuel production – Nuclear fuel complex of Hyderabad prepares essential elements of fuel for pressurised water reactor. This complex also produces enriched Uranium from imported Uranium Hexafloride for boiling water reactor of Tarapur. 

Fuel reprocessing – The Indian nuclear power generation programme is based on a closed – cycle approach that involves reprocessing of spent fuel and recycle of plutonium and Uranium – 233 for power generation. The DAE has a pilot plant for reprocessing at Trombay and industrial andindustrial scale plants at Tarapur and Kalpakkam. The plant at Trombay process spent fuel from research reactors while the other two plants process spent fuel from power reactors.

Nuclear Waste Management– The radioactive wastes generated at various stages of nuclear fuel cyclic are categorized as low, intermediate and high level wastes. The plants for management of all types of radioactive wastes have been in operation at many nuclear facilities. The low and medium level radioactive wastes are treated in eco-friendly ways. Vitrification, a complex technologyprocessed by a few nations only, has been successfully developed at Trombay. Based on this technology, two waste immobilization Plants, (WIPs) are in operation at Tarapur and Trombay. A similar plant is under construction at Kalpakkam.


Namgal (Punjab) First heavy water plant of India established in 1962. Vadodara (Gujarat) Taalcher (Orissa) Tuticorin (Tamil Nadu) Thaal (Maharashtra) Hajira (Gujarat) Rawatbhata (Gujarat) Manuguru (Andhra Pradesh)


Heavy water is used as purifier and coolent in PHWR.

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