Atomic Energy Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar said on Sunday that the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), by building the miniaturised reactor that propelled the country’s nuclear-powered submarine, had demonstrated "that we have our indigenous Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) technology."
He called the launching of INS Arihant “an important milestone” in the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) programme. “This PWR technology is very complex. We have been able to compact this reactor and pack it in the cramped space” of the hull of the submarine, Dr. Kakodkar told The Hindu from Visakhapatnam where the submarine was launched.
The shore-based PWR has been working at Kalpakkam, 60 km from Chennai, for the past three years, he said.
India has been a world leader in building Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) that use natural uranium as fuel, and heavy water as moderator and coolant. But this is the first time that India has built a PWR that used enriched uranium as fuel, and light water as both coolant and moderator.
Dr. Kakodkar said the BARC mastering the PWR technology was significant now, because the Light Water Reactors that India would be importing (from Russia, France, and the U.S.) were PWRs that used enriched uranium as fuel, and light water as both coolant and moderator.
To a question, the AEC Chairman said, “Yes, we miniaturised the reactor [on our own]. The basic complexity is that you have to make it into a compact power system to fit into a submarine.”
Srikumar Banerjee, BARC Director, also stressed that “the event marks the beginning of PWR technology in India.” The BARC made many design features to make this reactor compact. “There are novelties not only in the reactor’s design but in its manufacturing,” he said. For instance, the steam generator which drove the turbine to generate electricity, was compacted in a novel manner. The heart of the reactor is the steam generator.
Dr. Banerjee said: “A boat of this type is a major technology in itself. Its steam generator is yet another technology. The whole platform is a very complex combination of various technologies. That is why we are happy it has reached fruition.
“We have so far developed reactors built on the shore [on firm ground]. But a submarine is a moving platform. It is rolling and pitching, and undergoes other kinds of motion. Against these, we have designed and developed this compact reactor. This is a major achievement.”
Asked whether the Russians helped the BARC in miniaturising the reactor, Dr. Banerjee said, “No, no. They were consultants…Consultancy was done for the whole submarine, not for the power part alone.”
He denied that there was an inordinate delay in the programme. The ATV was conceptualised only in 1984. “This is a completely new technology. It takes time to develop.”
“Great event for nation”
A. Sivathanu Pillai, Chief Controller, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), said: “Launching the Arihant is a great event for the nation because we are in the select club of countries having a nuclear-powered submarine.”
Only Russia, France, the U.S., the U.K., and China have nuclear-powered submarines.