BHABHA ATOMIC Research Centre (BARC) Director Dr Srikumar Banerjee has said that the Indo-US nuclear treaty would not impact the indigenous nuclear programme that aims to achieve energy security. He was here to inaugurate the 51st Solid State Physics Symposium of the Department of Atomic Energy.
Talking to the mediapersons on Tuesday, the eminent scientist that the indigenous nuclear programme is aimed at independence in energy sector and the BARC has already initiated into utilisation of Thorium-based fuel for the next generation nuclear reactors towards achievement of this objective.
He said that if India becomes a partner in the international collaborative effort for peaceful nuclear energy, the growth possibilities in the next generation nuclear energy work would certainly become faster. This would offer the country an opportunity to buy reactors and fuel and help in additional power generation.
This, he said, would not at all impact the indigenous programme because there is immense scope for utilisation of nuclear power in the country and any import of reactor or fuel would not conflict with the indigenous effort.
While maintaining that he might not be the proper authority to comment on the Indo-US deal, the director of the BARC, however, said that the details of the agreement are yet to be finalised and India would certainly ensure that no gagging conditions are accepted.
He said that there are some serious concerns among the nuclear fraternity on some of issues related to the deal, like the fate of spent fuel. All such concerns would have to be addressed before the deal goes through. Dr Banerjee said that presently only the US law has been amended in this regard and the main process of drawing up the agreement is still in process.
He said that the country has the full capability of running the entire nuclear fuel cycle from uranium mining to waste immobilisation, but there is a limitation to the uranium-based reactors because India is poor in uranium resources and anyway uranium-235 – which can be used as the nuclear power base — is only 0.7 per cent of all uranium available on earth.
Therefore, the use of the byproducts of nuclear processes – like plutonium-239 and uranium-233 (by-product of thorium) are the only options available. Thus the BARC is concentrating on thorium-based nuclear reactors as future energy sources, he added.
As for the other peaceful use of nuclear technology – especially nano-technology, the director pointed out the utility in health, agriculture and food processing sectors. He said that apart from utility in therapeutics and diagnosis, irradiation has major use in sterilisation of medical gadgets. He said that the BARC develops the technology in the field and transfers the technology to private industry who makes it commercially viable.
He also talked about the development of radiation-mutated seed varieties that are doing well in country. He said the BARC developed as many as 27 mutated seeds of which the groundnut and black gram (urad dal) mutants are showing good results.