India’s nuclear expansion story has caused people unrest in Jaitapur (Maharashtra) and Kudankulam (Tamil Nadu), but for Delhi University’s Aakanksha Saxena and her friends it has provided them with a new career horizon.
Saxena was among the first batch of the university’s masters in nuclear science and technology, country’s only programme of its type, and had a plenty of jobs on offer even before they finished their course in this August.
"(nuclear) science is an emerging area and I thought to try my luck," Saxena said, days after she opted for a top job in French Atomic Energy Commission, Cadarache. Not just her, all her batch-mates have earned lucrative jobs in nuclear establishments in India, Germany and France, the three major nuclear energy players in the world.
The university’s Physics Department started a dual degree course with University of Paris in 2008, in which the students learn nuclear science for the first two years in the home university and then with the foreign partner. In the end, students get two master degrees --- one from Delhi University and other from University of Paris.
"The course is such that the students get practical experience of working in a nuclear reactor," said Professor S K Puri of Delhi University, the brain behind the course. The university invested Rs 10 crore to set up a laboratory to train students in nuclear science that needs 54,000 new scientists for upcoming reactors around the world.
India alone needs about 9,000 scientists to run the proposed 15 nuclear power stations. Availability of scientists is very low. The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, which have courses on nuclear science, would meet just 40% of the demand.
It was the right time to opt for a career in nuclear science, as Pradeep Ghosh, who has got a job in a nuclear laboratory in Germany, found out. "We had several options in the time of economic recession," Ghosh said. In fact, each student had 2.5 job offers from the best nuclear establishments in India and abroad. Five of the 11 students of the batch have been selected by BARC at senior scientist level.
Puri said nuclear science is catching imagination of Indian education system but the high cost of education is the biggest stumbling block. "A good nuclear laboratory could cost 10-15 crore and even some good government universities cannot afford that sort of money," he said. To meet the growing demand, universities need government funding to start good quality nuclear courses.