India’s strongest voice for the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, Anil Kakodkar, retired as the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) on Monday. Srikumar Banerjee (63), director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, has succeeded him.
Kakodkar (66) played a crucial role in getting India out of its 34-year-old nuclear isolation last year after the Nuclear Suppliers Group allowed India to carry out civilian international nuclear trade.
“Achieving energy independence is not going to be easy. What I mean by energy independence is the day India will stop importing energy,” said Kakodkar, also the secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).
Kakodkar served AEC chairman for nine years including three extensions in 45-year-long service with the DAE. Banerjee, who is Kakodkar’s junior by four years at the BARC training school, will take charge from December 1.
Calling Kakodkar’s leadership “exemplary”, Banerjee said: “He is the main architect for India’s reign as a major technology holder in the nuclear area.”
Banerjee, who completed his BTech and PhD in metallurgical engineering from IIT-Kharagpur, is a Padma Shri awardee. Banerjee said a major task would be to ensure tremendous growth in electricity generation, 10 per cent of which will be from nuclear power by 2032. “We need fast-track technology. No country is planning this growth in such a short time frame,” he said.
Nuclear plants across country to get explosive detectors
All nuclear power plants across the country will soon have chemical sniffers to detect explosives and counter sabotage.
The state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) is planning to install such safety nets across its 17 nuclear power plants. A policy decision was recently taken by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, which also looks into the safety aspects of a power plant.
In the backdrop of heavy water contamination in the Kaiga Atomic Plant in Karnataka where 55 employees reported sick because of radiation poisoning in a water cooler, S. K. Jain, chairman and managing director, NPCIL, on Monday spoke about various additional proposed security measures.
A chemical sniffer, mostly used to detect explosives, is a walk-through security system where the sensor samples the air drawn by a fan. A gas added to the air will glow in the presence of nitrogen compounds — found in explosives — triggering an alarm.
“A normal walk through detector will not be able to detect explosives. So someone can get in with small amounts (of explosives), unnoticed,” said Jain. Apart from identity verification of its recruits, NPCIL also conducts re-verification of its employees with individual profiling that looks into lifestyle changes or frequent absenteeism. The Intelligence Bureau, Central Industrial Security Force and state police is investigating whether the alleged sabotage was carried out by a an NPCIL insider or supporting contract staff.
With India now a part of the international civil nuclear programme, Anil Kakodkar who stepped down as the chief of the Atomic Energy Commission on Monday said the “malevolent act” will not affect the nuclear programme.