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HARNESSING NUCLEAR ENERGY ON STRATEGIC PLATFORMS


LT CDR SM KARTHIK
History of Nuclear Energy.
The discovery of ionising radiation by Wilhelm Rontgen in 1895,
Beta radiation and Alpha particles by Henri Becquerel in 1896 and
significant contributions to this field of science by Pierre and Marie
Curie who coined the term 'radioactivity' in 1896 paved way for
tremendous advancements in the field of Nuclear Power. Niels
Bohr was another scientist who spearheaded the understanding of
the atom and the way electrons were arranged around its nucleus
in the 1940s.1 The science of atomic radiation, atomic
change and nuclear fission was developed from 1895 to
1945.
Harnessing Nuclear Fission.
Enrico Fermi, an Italian scientist, led a team of scientists who
created the first self sustaining nuclear chain reaction. The first
atomic device was successfully tested in New Mexico, codenamed
the Trinity Explosion, on 16 July 1945. The first atomic bomb,
Little Boy was dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. The
second bomb, Fat Man, was dropped on Nagasaki on 9 August.
This brought an end to the II World War on 10 Aug 1945. 1 From
1939-45, development and advancement in this field was
1Lieutenant Commander SM Karthik is an engineer in the submarine cadre of the Indian
Navy and is presently undergoing his Masters in Technology Management at DIAT.1 (US
Department of Energy. Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology 2013, Goldberg
2011)

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Harnessing Nuclear Energy on Strategic Platforms

HARNESSING NUCLEAR ENERGY ON STRATEGIC PLATFORMS

focused mainly on the atomic bomb due to prevalent


hostile situation.
Nuclear energy for Peace.
By the end of World War II, beneficial aspects of Nuclear energy
were

being

considered.

Post-war,

weapons

development

continued on both sides of the "iron curtain", but a new focus was
on

harnessing

the

great

atomic

power,

now

dramatically

demonstrated, for making steam and electricity. The first nuclear


reactor to produce electricity was the small Experimental Breeder
reactor (EBR-1) designed and operated in December 1951, Idaho,
USA.2
Strategic Nuclear Platforms.
The main effort by the USA was under Admiral Hyman Rickover,
who spearheaded the construction of USS Nautilus, the first
Nuclear Submarine. This was made possible by the successful
development of a nuclear propulsion plant by a group of
scientists and engineers of the United States Atomic Energy
Commission. In 1959 both USA and USSR launched their first
nuclear-powered surface vessels. From 1945 attention was
given to harnessing this energy in a controlled fashion
for naval propulsion and for generating electricity.

Indian Nuclear Power Programme.

Harnessing Nuclear Energy on Strategic Platforms 2

HARNESSING NUCLEAR ENERGY ON STRATEGIC PLATFORMS

After India attained independence, in 1947, the Department of


Atomic Energy was established in 1954 with Dr. Homi Bhabha as
Secretary to implement the policies framed by the Atomic Energy
Commission. The atomic energy program, which was initiated in a
modest manner initially, has now grown as
2 (Goldberg 2011)
a wide spectrum, multi dimensional multidisciplinary with 63
organizations under DAE. All atomic energy activities in the
country are governed by the Atomic Energy Act. 3
In India, development of nuclear energy began with the objectives
of peaceful uses of atomic energy in improving the quality of life
of the people and to attain self-reliance in meeting the rapidly
growing energy needs. India's and Asia's first nuclear reactor was
the Apsara research reactor. Designed and built in India, with
assistance and fuel from the United Kingdom, Apsara reached
criticality on August 4, 1956 and was inaugurated on January
1957.
Commercial use of Nuclear Energy in India.
The commercial Nuclear Power program started in 1969 with the
operation of TAPS 1&2 (BWR). Presently India has 21 nuclear
reactors in operation in 7 nuclear power plants, having an
installed capacity of 5780 MW and producing a total of
30,292.91 GWh of electricity while 6 more reactors are under
construction and are expected to generate an additional 4,300
Harnessing Nuclear Energy on Strategic Platforms 3

HARNESSING NUCLEAR ENERGY ON STRATEGIC


PLATFORMS
MW. On 7 June 2014, Kudankulam-1 became the single largest
power generating unit in India.3
Strategic use of Nuclear Energy in India.
Nuclear submarines are strategic assets and typically stay deep
inside the sea for prolonged periods of time, ready to launch an
attack, in case of an nuclear
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________________________ 3 (Bhardwaj Oct 2013)
strike. They form a part of the nuclear triad envisaged in the
national interest
of the country. This is critical since India has adopted the doctrine
of no first use of nuclear weapons. INS Arihant, the first nuclear
propelled submarine, is the first ballistic missile submarine to
have been built by a country other than one of the five permanent
members of the United Nations Security Council.
The Arihant

class

MW pressurised

submarines

water

are

reactor (PWR)

powered

by

with highly

an

83

enriched

uranium fuel. The miniaturised naval version of the reactor was


designed by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and built
at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) in
Kalpakkam. A land-based prototype of the marine PWR was first
built at Kalpakkam. The prototype reactor became critical

HARNESSING NUCLEAR ENERGY ON STRATEGIC PLATFORMS

in November 2003 and was declared operational in September


2006. Successful operation of the prototype for three years
yielded the data and the confidence that enabled the production
version of the reactor for Arihant
Several companies supplied components of the reactor. High
grade

steel

supplied

by Heavy

Engineering

Corporation, Ranchi, was used to build the reactor vessel. The


steam generator was provided by BHEL, and Audco India, Chennai
built the pressure valves. Separately, infrastructure for testing the
reactor subsystems was set up at the Ship Building Centre
(SBC) in Visakhapatnam. Facilities for loading and replacing the
fuel cores of the naval reactors in berthed submarines were also
established at the Ship Building Centre.4
4 (Chabbria 2015)
Once

the

design

was

finalised,

detailed

engineering

was

implemented at Larsen and Toubro's submarine design centre at


their Hazira shipbuilding facility using 3D modeling and product
data management software.
The lead vessel underwent a long and extensive process of
testing after its "launch" in July 2009. Every sub-system of the
propulsion and power system on board the submarine was
repeatedly tested with high-pressure steam trials of all pipelines.
This was followed by harbour-acceptance trials that included
submersion tests by flooding its ballast tanks and controlled dives

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HARNESSING NUCLEAR ENERGY ON STRATEGIC


PLATFORMS
to limited depths. Data gathered from her acceptance trials is
expected to aid the development of nuclear submarines to follow.
Arihants nuclear reactor went critical for the first time on 10
August 2013. She completed her maiden sea sortie on 14 Dec
2014 and is undergoing extensive sea trials prior commissioning.
The Future of Nuclear Submarines in India.
India has decided to construct more nuclear-powered Arihantclass ballistic submarines (SSBN) and four more submarines of
this class are under construction at Ship Building Centre (SBC),
Visakhapatnam India plans to build six of these submarines in
long

term. A plan

to

construct 06 SSN (nuclear

powered

submarines) is also in the pipeline and expansion of facilities and


infrastructure is already in full swing at SBC.
Conclusion.
Nuclear energy has a vital role in the countrys energy scenario,
by providing energy security in the longer run while narrowing
climate

change.

The

Indian

__________________________________________________________________
________________________nuclear power program, visualized by Dr.
Homi Bhabha is being developed and successfully deployed with
indigenous efforts, propelling our nation into the elite club of
countries possessing advanced nuclear expertise. The evolution
and progress of commercial nuclear energy in the country has

HARNESSING NUCLEAR ENERGY ON STRATEGIC PLATFORMS

undergone major technological challenges. While developing and


complementing the nuclear power program, the capability of the
Indian industry in manufacturing and supply of precision and
specialized equipment has also been developed.
The future of harnessing nuclear energy as primary forms of
propulsion onboard ships (aircraft carriers) and submarines is
undergoing advancements by leaps and bounds and needs to be
supplemented by a even stronger industrial force. Nuclear
submarines, India's underwater combat arm, offer operational
flexibility in blue-water operations, and additionally present the
capability to launch a potent weapons delivery platform at a place
of its choosing at long distances in stealth. Given India's guiding
principle of "retaliation only", it is sensible to assume that the
survivability of India's nuclear arsenal will define its second-strike
capability, thereby ensuring credible deterrence.

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