What is India Nuclear Program, Pokhran Nuclear test, Nuclear energy

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India being a peace loving country promotes civilian use of nuclear technology and has devised a strategy to tap this energy source for developmental purposes. Thus, India’s peaceful ways of using nuclear energy is termed as Indian Civil Nuclear Strategy. Since our Independence our first Prime Minister Pt Nehru took very vocal stand against nuclear weapons but being aware of its utility, modernist Nehru asserted for its use in national development.

process where Nuclear energy is the energy which is derived from any radioactive material. It can be derived through two processes i.e. nuclear fission and nuclear fusion. Nuclear fission is a process where the nucleus of a radioactive element breaks down and energy is released and on the other hand, Nuclear fusion is the two elements combine to release energy. The former is a controllable process and is used in civil nuclear energy. The latter is a process which is difficult to control but produces enormous amount of energy. The nuclear fusion process takes place in the Sun and provides continuous energy to it.

Beginning of Nuclear Programme in India

India’s journey in the field of nuclear energy began with the formation of Department of Atomic Energy in 1954. The aim of Nuclear programme of India was to harness nuclear resources for peaceful purposes. Under the Nuclear Energy Programme of India, an agreement was signed with USA to setup India’s first Nuclear Power Station in 1963 at Tarapore in the state of Maharashtra. Tarapore marked the beginning of India’s nuclear power development.

As an effort to promote nuclear energy, another agreement was signed with Soviet Union to setup another nuclear plant at Kudankulam in 1988. In the earlier stages, electricity generation was the primary focus of the India’s nuclear energy programme. From the beginning, India’s nuclear energy programme paid priority and attention to indigenous nuclear energy production. India’s nuclear weapon program was later started with the Pokhran I and Pokhran II tests.

For the nuclear energy, the design, development and manufacturing responsibility for power plant equipments were taken up by Indian industries on their own. Companies such as BHEL, L&T, Godrej industries took major responsibilities for supply

Pokhran Nuclear Tests

The year 1974 marked a watershed in India’s Nuclear Development Programme. India conducted its first nuclear detonation on 18th May, 1974 in Pokhran Range, Rajasthan. Pokhran I, coded as ‘the Smiling Buddha’, scripted our nation’s name in the list of nuclear weapon possessing countries. This was also the first confirmed nuclear test by a nation outside the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. The soils and sacredness of the Rajasthan once again experienced a nuclear test in 1998. It was Pokhran II which earned pride and fear from world nations. It consisted of five detonations, of which, the first was a fusion bomb and the remaining four were fission bombs. These nuclear tests resulted in a variety of sanctions against India by a number of major countries, including Japan and the United States,

Agencies for Nuclear Programme in India

India’s two giant scientific establishments, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Defense Research Development Organisation (DRDO) began to synergise their strength. By 1989, India refined its ability to drop nuclear bombs using combat aircraft. By the time, the 1995 tests started, the DRDO and the atomic energy team had made major changes in the bomb. The weight was reduced considerably and the yield was increased. Elaborate safety packages for delivery had been taken care of. Missiles were also developed as delivery vehicles. The first nuclear power plant was installed in 1969 in Tarapur, Maharashtra with two units of 160 MW each. At present, there are 21 nuclear power plants operational in India. By 2050, India aims to supply 25% of electricity from nuclear sources.

India’s Three-Stage Nuclear Power Programme

India’s Nuclear Power Programme was conceived as a three stage cycle as envisaged by Dr Homi Bhabha. The first stage was the Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) utilising natural uranium to produce electricity. The spent fuel was Plutonium-239 as a by product.

The second stage was Fast breeder reactor which used mixed oxide made from by product of first stage ie. Plutonium-239. Fast breeder reactors are the ones which produce more fuel than it consumes. The third stage as envisaged was Thorium based reactor which involved self-sustaining fuel model comprising of Thorium-232 and Uranium-233 as fuel. Large deposit of Thorium has been discovered in Malabar coast of India, making it the natural choice of fuel for the third stage.

India and International Scenario

As India is not a signatory to the discriminate Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, due to its weapons programme, it was excluded from trade in nuclear material and nuclear plant technology.

This had hampered its civil nuclear strategy till 2009. Since 2009, India’s civil nuclear path changed as we signed the India-US Civil Nuclear Agreement also known as 123 Agreement. Also, with the support of USA, Nuclear Suppliers Group

(NSG) granted waiver to India to access nuclear material and nuclear technology. In pursuance of the exemption granted to India, the Parliament passed Nuclear Liability Act, 2010. In 2016, India signed Civil Nuclear Agreements with 14 countries to carry out nuclear commerce to be used as fuel for power generation. India also became the member of Missile Technology Control Regime (2018), Wassenaar Agreement (2017) and Australia Group (2018). The inclusion of India has further strengthened the candidature of India as member of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

Significance of India’s Nuclear Energy Programme

India’s population has grown from only 350 million to 1.3 billion today. Commercial energy consumption has increased which is fulfilled mainly by coal power and hydropower. India requires a sustainable source of energy for meeting the requirements of its large population. Almost 33% of India’s population resides in urban areas of the country that have high energy consumption requirements. This rapid pace of urbanisation combined with increasing industrialisation has pushed up India’s energy demands. Such enormous amount of energy supply can be provided effectively with the help of nuclear energy only. Thus, investing on a sustainable basis in the nuclear energy programme becomes more important. Moreover, due to the exhaustible nature of coal, petroleum and natural gas

resources for producing India’s energy, these are limited in their scope and extent. Hence, nuclear energy programme to produce nuclear energy in a safe manner becomes significant


India has emerged as a global super power. To maintain pace of development, it is important to build a constant and reliable supply chain of nuclear materials. India has succeeded in pushing its nuclear programme in right direction through its political will, bilateral agreements and NSG waiver for nuclear trade. In this regard, India is set to touch new horizon with agenda of development through its nuclear programmes.

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