“It is a moment of jubilation for the entire nuclear energy sector in the country, which has worked hard to make a reactor of this type,” said R.K Sinha, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), upbeat about Arihant’s reactor going into operation. “It is really a demonstration of very advanced technological capability in the challenging areas of nuclear reactor design, manufacture and commissioning. I am proud that this big effort has resulted in the reactor reaching first criticality,” Mr. Sinha told The Hindu.

The reactor on board Arihant was different from the reactors in the nuclear power stations in terms of compactness, safety parameters and the conditions at sea it would encounter, Mr. Sinha said.

It was on July 26, 2009 that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s wife Gursharan Kaur broke a coconut to name India’s first nuclear powered submarine “Arihant”, meaning destroyer of enemies, and launched it at the Naval Dockyard at Visakhapatnam. On that day, the Prime Minister specifically thanked “our Russian friends for their consistent and invaluable cooperation, which symbolises the close strategic partnership that we enjoy with Russia.”

S. Basu, Director, BARC, who was one of the architects in building Arihant’s reactor, described the achieving of first criticality as “a big achievement in terms of our defence preparedness.” He said “The Kalpakkam experience has been made use of here” in building the PWR that propels Arihant. “Everything went smoothly and as prescribed and predicted. A thorough preparation was done for the event to be conducted in a phased and disciplined manner, following all the safety stipulations.” The BARC Safety Council gave the thumbs-up for the criticality.

Asked when Arihant’s sea trials would be done, Mr. Basu said, “The boat is already in the sea. From now on, all trials will be sea trials.” He explained that with the boat’s reactor reaching first criticality, physics experiments on the reactor would be done. Step by step, the power output from the reactor would be increased. The reactor’s primary system had been proved now. Next, the propulsion system, that is, the secondary system would be proved. “Once the propulsion system is proved and made operational, we will go for sea trials,” said Mr. Basu, who was the Project Director of the PWR at Kalpakkam.

Mr. Sinha, who is also the DAE Secretary, asserted that “Indian industry has come of age in the manufacture of the PWR vessel, which has been used in the reactor.”

There were many other important components which had gone into the reactor, which were completely indigenous and manufactured in India, he said. The project, originally called the Advanced Technology Vessel progr-amme, had its genesis in 1984/85 but active work on it began in the late 1990s.

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