Ratan Kumar Sinha, Director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Trombay, took over on Monday as Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and Secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), from Srikumar Banerjee, who retired after 45 years of distinguished service.

Mr. Sinha is one of the architects of India's futuristic 300-MWe Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR), which will use thorium as fuel. He has designed and developed the Indian High Temperature Reactor for generating hydrogen which is termed “the fuel of the future.” He will continue to be Director of the BARC till his successor is appointed.

Dr. Banerjee, who served as AEC Chairman for two-and-a-half years, said he was retiring with a sense of satisfaction and pride, and considered himself fortunate to have spent his professional life in the DAE. He was sure that the programmes of the DAE would continue because they had both short-term and long-term goals for stepping up the nuclear power generation capacity. He called for the deployment of other technologies being pursued by the DAE for larger social benefits. The change of guard in the DAE, he said, would not result in any major deviation in its 12th Plan programme which was recently finalised.

Before he became Director of the BARC in 2010, Mr. Sinha was Director of the Reactor Design and Development Group and the Manufacturing and Automation Group at the BARC. Along with the former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), Anil Kakodkar, he was one of the key designers of the AHWR, which will use thorium, which is abundantly available in the country. The AHWR has several innovative and passive safety features. Though the AHWR has undergone peer reviews, its construction has been delayed by several years. The candidate sites are Tarapur and Visakhapatnam.

Mr. Sinha has guided the design of the Compact High Temperature Reactor (CHTR), a technology demonstrator. It will demonstrate the technologies needed to set up small, transportable nuclear power reactors that be installed in remote areas.

The new AEC Chairman, an internationally recognised expert in nuclear reactor technology, has designed, developed and installed the coolant channels and other internal components of the world-class Dhruva (100 MWt) reactor at BARC, Trombay. He led the development of several robotic inspection technologies to replace en masse the coolant channels in the Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) in several nuclear power stations in India. This technique, in which the reactor virtually undergoes a full-fledged “transplant of its innards,” has extended the life of many PHWRs for 25 more years. For instance, Mr. Sinha was one of the architects of the life extension and rehabilitation programme of the two de-rated PHWRs of the Madras Atomic Power Station at Kalpakkam, near Chennai.

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