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India: the Spring-back Nation. ©

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Jun 04, 2004
A doomsday film, Lovelock and India

We finally turn to the third development of the fortnight. It is the announcement that construction of India’s Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor [PFBR] is to begin in July at Kalpakkam near Chennai. It is a monster engineering project to be executed entirely by Indians. It will cost Rs.3,400 crores and take seven years to complete. Once the PFBR has yielded the data and experience that scientists are seeking, it will lead to a series of FBRs. By the year 2020 there are to be four producing 500 mw each. Eventually a total of half a million megawatts are to be produced by FBRs. A new public sector undertaking the Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigham [BHAVINI] has been formed to manage the FBR programme. India is clearly embarking on a path to energy security based on nuclear power.

For those who are squeamish about nuclear power, all that can be said by way of comfort is that India has a record of being a skillful, mature and safe nuclear technologist. Its progress has been studiously calibrated and steady. It is a saga that has not attracted an able biographer, which is a pity because he would find many self-effacing heroes going by names like Homi Bhabha, Vikram Sarabhai, P R Roy, M R Srinivasan, P K Iyengar, Raja Ramanna, H N Sethna, R Chidmabaram, S Fareeduddin, N Kondal Rao, Anil Kakodkar and a supporting cast several thousand, brilliant faceless Indians.

Between them they have created a wide range of technologies and guided India’s nuclear programme over close to 50 years. In that time, India has graduated from one level to a higher one with the greatest deliberation. For example, when work begins on the PFBR in July,2004, it will have 19 years of experience gained from the Fast Breeder Test Reactor [FBTR]. And it will be a decade or so before the PFBR will result in a production line of FBRs.

Fact is, we live in hard times that call for hard choices—like going nuclear. The best one can do is be competent with the choices made.

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