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Updated: July 19, 2012 19:56 IST

Nuclear technology will aid people, farms, factories: BARC chief

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Sekhar Basu, who took over as Director of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Trombay, on Tuesday. Photo: DAE
Sekhar Basu, who took over as Director of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Trombay, on Tuesday. Photo: DAE

The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), India’s premier nuclear research organisation, will propagate the societal benefits of nuclear technology in agriculture, health and industry while completing its planned research reactor projects, its top official has said. It plans to take radiation treatment technology to the small towns of India.

“We do a lot in the field of agriculture like seed development, tissue culture and preservation techniques. It is now more a question of making the progressive farmers know and use them. On the industrial side, we transfer technologies developed by us. Recently, we transferred water purification technologies to the Godrej group,” BARC Director Shekhar Basu told IANS in an interview over the phone from Mumbai.

Mr Basu, who assumed office in June, said his plans include taking the radiation treatment technologies to tier-two and -three cities and facilitate infrastructure development in these areas.

“In the healthcare segment we have a role to play in radiation treatment. My target is to go to tier two/three cities for this. This will need infrastructure presence there. I will try to reach that. In major cities the treatment facilities are available and now we need to go further,” Mr Basu said.

He said BARC has transferred the technology to manufacture the Bhabhatron — an affordable radiotherapy machine for cancer treatment. “We will see how the system could be propagated,” Mr Basu said.

BARC has developed micro-propagation protocols — a technique for large-scale rapid plant multiplication — for banana, sugarcane, pineapple, potato, turmeric and ginger. While the banana tissue culture production has been transferred to a couple of agencies, BARC is now working on sugarcane, pineapple and others.

According to Mr Basu, the nuclear research organisation has done good work in the genetic improvement of the groundnut crop as well as preservation of agricultural produce.

“BARC has developed 15 varieties of confectionary grade groundnut seeds. Farmers sowing our seeds have better yield than others. The national average of summer yield is around 2.5 tonnes per hectare whereas farmers using our seeds harvest around four tonnes per hectare,” S.F.D’Souza, associate director, (Bio-Medical Group, Nuclear Agriculture and Bio-Technology), told IANS. He said large acreage of black gram with BARC-developed seeds is cultivated in Maharashtra.

According to him, BARC is now working on development of crops that can tolerate climate change and certain diseases. “On the preservation side, we do radiation processing of onions and potatoes to prevent early sprouting and extend their shelf life. The chemical process to preserve the lichi fruit has been transferred for commercialization. We have also developed the nuclear process of lichi preservation,” Mr D’Souza said.

Meanwhile, on the issue of BARC’s core activity — nuclear research — Mr Basu said the focus is on completing the research projects and accelerating the fundamental research projects.

Expressing satisfaction on BARC’s performance on patent filings and publication of papers, Mr Basu said, “Last year a dozen patents were filed by BARC researchers, out of which some are universal patents. Our researchers are also publishing papers in various journals. Last year, we published over 1,400 papers in journals. The record of citation of those papers by other researchers is also good.”

While employee attrition is not a major issue for BARC, the new director agreed that attracting good talent is a challenge owing to the attractive pay scales offered by the private sector.

“The challenge is that overseas institutions are looking at India for their research and hence there is a great demand for talent. But today’s scientific research is a collaborative effort of various researchers and not an individual activity. What we need is a set of committed people and not the best of brains,” he said.

He sounded positive to the view that a brand ambassador for science would be of help in encouraging students to look at science as a career.

Queried about BARC’s reactor projects, Mr Basu expressed his hope that the Apsara reactor that was shut down in 2010 would get a new core during his tenure and would start producing isotopes for various research facilities. “New core means new fuel. The fuel will be better than the earlier one,” he added.

BARC is planning to build two research reactors, the 100-125 MW Dhruva-2 and a high flux research reactor to produce isotopes (that are now being imported), at Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh.

On the much-awaited advanced heavy water reactor (AHWR) powered by thorium, Mr Basu said, “Detailed engineering is on for the 300 MW reactor. The programme has to go into project mode. Now the stage is to get the sanction and a site has to be selected.” Denying any slowdown in research on light water reactors (LWR) in the wake of India planning to import several units, Mr Basu said “Import is one part.”

“We should continue our research and development programmes in parallel to support the imported systems. At BARC the 700 MW LWRs are in the development mode.”

According to Mr Basu, work on the Rs.7,000 crore integrated fuel reprocessing facility at Tarapur in Maharashtra has started with orders for components being placed. The project is expected to be completed during the 12th/13th plan period (2012-17/2017-22).

In europe so many countries are shutting the nuclear power plants but india is increasing them why i cant understand so please find the other energy sources like solar energy so many countries are adopting now a days

from:  rams
Posted on: Jul 22, 2012 at 09:07 IST

The dream of proving the point that BARC has done a lot for Agriculture and health care by ramification of the infrastructure to reach the end users is of course a sweet one when the slogan 20000 Mw nuclear power by 2020 is taking a rough ride due to the lack of credibility of these scientific leaders.It's ridiculous that such a top scientfic mentor tells that talent attrition is not a concern.I will humbly disagree the fact that people leave such organizations only because they get more money outside.More truth can be revealed if people quitting Indian R&D set up like this are being interviewed by a commission with assurance of their security against the long powerful hand of scientific leaders , who can do anything for reaching higher post and gaining false popularity .country gaining a lot on paper and little in reality is a real issue of pity.

from:  kshetramohan
Posted on: Jul 21, 2012 at 14:45 IST

Public perception on nuclear energy linked to atomic bombs of massive destruction needs to be addressed.The awakening should start at elementary class rooms.Mutation breeding to generate usefull variants in crop plants has led to release of many high yielding varieties in ground nut,brassica,tomato and even in rice and wheat.Tracer studies to locate pathways of nutrient movement in plants,to find out blockages in blood vessels and even in nervous system,to burn out abnormal growth in human cells and tissues and to create luminescence in plants nuclear chemicals are used.Nuclear medicine is another area of human welfare.Extreme care and efforts are needed to convince gullible public who do not have faith in white colored science managers with exceptions of luminaries like Dr A P J Abdul Kalam who could convince the people in the safty of Atomic energy plant in Tamil Nadu.Biosafty is the top most priority and a trust worthy system should be in place.

from:  Dr K V Peter
Posted on: Jul 21, 2012 at 12:04 IST

Nuclear sector has both the pros and cons. But, no one can deny the fact that India needs to look for other ways to generate electricity to cope up with exponentially rising demand of power. The other ways should be both people and environment friendly. In this scenario, scientists(based their on researches) find that there can be many alternatives to achieve this, Nuclear sector is one among them.
If Andhra Pradesh is found to be more suitable place for setting up of Nuclear Power plant, in terms of Geological and other factors, than Arunachal Pradesh. And in turn Arunachal Pradesh is found to be more suitable place for harnessing Hydro Power then what is wrong with that? You mean, lets not set up Nuclear Power plant in Andhra Pradesh and lets not build Dam in Arunachal Pradesh?..just because people resides in those places?...oh common Science knows more than what we know..thats why we we go to study in IIT and NITs.
Immense studies have been done regarding safety.

from:  rike kamsi
Posted on: Jul 20, 2012 at 12:07 IST

I would really be happy when BARC would commence studies on radiation therapy for various diseases, but they mostly covering on agricultural research (so called agri- biotechnology) and so.If so there are plenty of ICAR institutes, all agricultural Universities (UAS- Dharwad, GP pant nagar,Assam) to take care of the seed technology and micro-propagation technology. we would like to know more on updated or modernized research for nuclear physics, because most of the funding agencies goes to the premier institute like BARC.

from:  Subashchandrabose Chinnathambi
Posted on: Jul 20, 2012 at 11:25 IST

I would really be happy when BARC would commence studies on radiation and related scientific studies on Agnihotra yajya. And help disseminate knowledge which is truly made for nature+people together. I have read about few scientific papers published on net. But I get disappointed when our premier people are bonded-in/fond-of not-close-to-nature work.

from:  Nitin
Posted on: Jul 20, 2012 at 09:30 IST

Mr.Basu the common man of India associates the word nuclear with Atom Bomb, Hydrogen Bomb. This is because study & reasearch on the subject is restrained to 2-3 centres near Bombay. If you dont take nuclear research & education to hinterland then you will face this kind of backlash whenever you try any big project in hinterland.

from:  Shaleen Mathur
Posted on: Jul 20, 2012 at 08:45 IST

This is all to help businessmen and not the farmer or people. To create junk equipment that creates E-waste. They didn't tell us what are the side affects of such treatments. They also want encourage the use of bio-technology to sub-serve the interests of MNCs. At the present juncture either farmer or people need cost effective mode without any side affects which other-wise becomes a heavy burden. Naturally BARK needs funds for their research and thus talks on positive sides and not on negative and practical aspects side. The later is very important in the present circumstances. At the same time it should not increase the burden on to the government in terms of subsidy component.

from:  Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
Posted on: Jul 20, 2012 at 06:10 IST

This man must be dreaming. By 2015 everyone will have their own power generating
unit at their own home. How come we have these people from the dark ages running
our power sector? Plus who the heck is going to invest in these white elephants that
no local population wants. Andhra Pradesh is gearing up for massive anti-nuclear
protests. First these nuclear peddlers give people cancer with their uranium mining
and their inherently deadly and dangerous nuclear power plants and then they try to
cure the cancer with the same can nuclear benefit the people if they
are dead against it? After Fukushima I don't know one individual who would want to
live next to these money and water guzzling units
And India has been already facing droughts brought on by the 20 presently
operating (at half capacity) nuclear plants in the country. Many of us will even evade
paying taxes if our money goes into this bad karma form of power generation that
cripples our kids future with deadly waste!

from:  Angela Alvares
Posted on: Jul 19, 2012 at 22:34 IST
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