ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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NUCLEAR POWER-Technology of Dependence

September 13, 1980 NUCLEAR POWER Technology of Dependence (By a Special Correspondent) THE Department of Atomic Energy had proposed an outlay of Rs 985 crore for the Sixth Plan, 1978,83, formulated by the Janata government. Of this, Rs 223 crore was earmarked for Research and Development, and Rs 654 crore for nuclear power. What is the direction of the nuclear power programme? The Secretary to the Department, H N Sethna, had stated in his Maharaja Sayajirao Lecture at Baroda; "In formulating our strategy for nuclear power development,.. we chalked out a programme which ... envisaged the construction of natural uranium fuelled reactors in the first phase, followed by fast breeder reactors in the second phase, using pluto- nium produced from the first phase reactors. This would eventually be followed by reactors based on the self- sustaining thorium cycle." So far, nuclear power in India has not been competitive with thermal or hydroelectric power; it has also not been competitive with the nuclear power generation costs of other countries. Of the nuclear power reactors, Tarapur is the only one which is functioning, though intermittently; instead of the 8,000 MW of power Bhabha had envisaged by 1980, and Sarabhai's dream of 2,700 MW, less than 380 MW of power to the Gujarat and Maharashtra electricity grids is all that is currently delivered. The Tarapur 380 MW reactor was constructed entirely by General Electric of USA, and its contractors, Bechtel; major fuel and maintenance problems have made the plant's continued operation hazardous and uncertain. As for the other plants, the effective assimilation of technology has been a difficult process; the search for self-reliance in the nuclear programme requires even more borrowings to fill in the gaps in our own industrial base and research capacity; in the name of self-sufficiency it is a technology of dependence.

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