Sunday, December 10, 2023

Big ticket n-projects have to be operational fast: AEC head Shekhar Basu

By Venkatachari Jagannathan
Chennai, Oct 25 (IANS)
The new chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Sekhar Basu seems to be a man with a mission and also in a hurry to achieve this.

“There are some projects that need speeding up so that they restart or go on stream fast. We have to have Indian uranium as much as possible for our reactors. We have to increase production of uranium and work has started towards that,” Basu, 63, told IANS in an interview over the phone from New Delhi.

In the Indian nuclear circles, Basu, also the secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), is termed a man of few words but an action-oriented and a good task master.

“All the big ticket nuclear projects are going on for some time. I would like to see them getting into operational mode,” he said.

Queried about the delay in restarting of the first 1,000 MW unit at KNPP he said: “The unit was shut down for the first time for annual maintenance after it was commissioned. I will now study the issues faced by Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) and see how the issues could be set right.”

A Padma Shri awardee, Basu said lots of checking has to be done and some components have to be replaced.

While he did not say he is impatient, Basu insisted: “I want the unit to restart operations at the earliest.”

Basu is also on the board of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) that is building two 1,000 MW reactors at KNPP with Russian equipment.

He said as per the current indications, the first KNPP unit is expected to restart later this year and the second unit would go on stream some time next year.

The KNPP unit that was connected to the southern grid in December 2014 was shut down this June for annual maintenance.

Similarly, Basu would also look into the issues relating to the 500 MW prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR) coming up at Kalpakkam, around 70 KM from here.

According to him, the focus will also be on increasing domestic uranium production.

He said he would lay the foundation and the road map for some of the major projects so that they get completed at the earliest.

Asked when the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) would become an independent regulator for the sector, Basu said parliament has to first pass a bill on this.

“For all practical purposes the AERB is functioning as an independent regulatory authority,” Basu added.

Looking back at his tenure as director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Basu said several large projects have been completed and are operational.

It was during his tenure at BARC that the supply of fuel for the indigenous nuclear submarine INS Arihant and for the PFBR began.

Incidentally, it was Basu who headed the project to develop the shore-based 80 MW reactor that was the prototype for the one that propels INS Arihant, which is currently undergoing sea trials before its induction in the Indian Navy.

At that time, Basu kept himself away from the media and was not seen – like a submarine. Only after becoming the director at BARC was he in the public eye – like a surfaced submarine.

As BARC director, Basu took special initiatives for major expansion of the societal programmes of the atomic energy department in areas like agriculture, food preservation and medicine.

He has been the guiding spirit behind establishing a nuclear fuel cycle park involving research reactors, fuel fabricators and reprocessing facilities at BARC’a Vizag Campus and initiated work on the design of the Indian Pressurised Water Reactor.

(Venkatachary Jagannathan can be contacted at [email protected]

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