Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission and Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Srikumar Banerjee, told journalists here on Monday that the DAE was introducing new safety standards to prevent the recurrence of accidents in its units. He also said that decongestion of the laboratories was a major priority for DAE.

“We are trying to see if we can store chemicals elsewhere instead of keeping them at the laboratory itself,” said Mr. Banerjee.

He also pointed out that some of the DAE laboratories were very congested with 4,200 scientists and several research students working at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) itself.

To reduce congestion the DAE was in the process of constructing a large laboratory facility at Vishakapatnam, Mr. Banerjee said.

He also said that that there is a possibility that there may have been a sudden release of chemicals from the air-conditioner casing at the site of the fire-accident at a chemical laboratory of BARC which claimed the lives of two research students on December 29. This was revealed in an internal analysis of the incident carried out by the institute, he added.

Mr. Banerjee, who was in the city for the 60th foundation day celebrations of the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, also said that it was important “to take positive initiatives to open up international trade in uranium.”

In addition to the nearly 40,000 megawatts of power produced with foreign collaboration at nuclear energy parks at coastal sites, imported uranium will be required for Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors, which would produce an additional 7,000 megawatts of power, Mr. Banerjee said. With this, India would be producing about 60,000 megawatts of nuclear power by 2032, he added.

While the first unit at the energy park at Koodankulam will be critical within this year, the second reactor will also be ready soon, he said. The process of land acquisition for the park at Jaitapur in Maharashtra had also begun.

‘Talks on’

But the status of the three other projects at coastal sites – Mithi Verdi in Gujrat, Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh and Haripur in West Bengal cleared by the Centre — were “still at the stage of inter-government negotiations and also talks between companies and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India.”

The baseline studies for these sites have also not been completed, he said.

Stressing on the importance of basic research in India’s Atomic Energy Programme, Mr. Banerjee said that scientists at DAE research institutes were also working in the hydrogen and solar energy sector.

Scientists are hopeful that a demo for high temperature reactors that will be able to break-down water into its constituent hydrogen will be available by 2016, he added.

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