The atomic energy programme in India is the most important undertaking in the public sector, as it spawns nuclear weapons development as well as our space research and missile programme since 1974. The world over, people have associated atomic energy with possible accidents and spilling out of radioactive material over wide stretches and leading to death, destruction and disease. The devastation caused by bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki followed decades later by the Three Mile Island reactor accident in USA in 1979 and the catastrophic fire at the Chernobyl reactors in 1986 in USSR have confirmed these fears. It has also led to growing opposition to atomic power in India, particularly by ?green? movements led by environmentalists.
The Department of Atomic Energy controls the entire nuclear fuel cycle ranging from mining of uranium to producing electricity. It was during the last years of their governance in India that the British rulers set up the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) with Dr S.S. Bhatnagar as its first Director. Later in 1945, an Atomic Energy Committee with Dr Homi Jehangir Bhabha as Chairman was constituted to initiate a programme of nuclear energy. He wrote a letter to Sir Dorabji Tata Trust seeking funds for setting up an institute for conducting nuclear research at Mumbai.
Though Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was opposed to use of atomic bombs, he gave full support to Bhabha'splan for producing nuclear power. Bhabha tried to seek support from Canada, France and the United Kingdom for India'snuclear programme. Canada had by now developed a heavy-water moderated reactor called Canada-Deuterium Uranium (CANDU) and Bhabha decided to set up this type of reactor in India as it would be the mainstay of our nuclear power programme. The first major blow to the nuclear programme came with Nehru'sdeath on 27 May 1964. Then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri died followed a fortnight later by Bhabha'sdeath in a plane crash on Mt. Blanc. This was followed by Vikram Sarabhai'sdeath suddenly in1971. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi appointed H.N. Sethna who was responsible for setting up the plutonium recovery plant as well as a factory for refining uranium at Trombay.
Here is a book through which the authors aim to show that the signing of the Indo-US nuclear agreement to augment the country'senergy deficit would be in India'sfavour.
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