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"Harness atomic energy for food security"

T.S. Subramanian

Swaminathan's call at BARC golden jubilee

BARC Director S. Banerjee (left) presents a set of three books on the ``Saga of Atomic Energy Programme in India'' to M.S. Swaminathan, Chairman, MSSRF, at the inauguration of the the golden jubilee celebrations of the BARC at Kalpakkam on Monday. — Photo: V. Ganesan

CHENNAI: M.S. Swaminathan, Chairman, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), on Monday urged the country to once again become the flagship of the movement for peaceful uses of atomic energy. If this was coupled with India's policy of no-first use, it would ultimately lead to total elimination of nuclear weapons, he said.

Inaugurating the golden jubilee celebrations of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research at Kalpakkam, near here, Prof. Swaminathan wanted efforts made in the 11th Plan to get back to the roots of harnessing atomic energy for health, food and livelihood security and drinking water technology. The BARC had done "wonderful" work in developing the "Trombay" mutant varieties of black gram, green gram and red gram. It played an important role in tissue culture in sugarcane in Maharashtra.

Prof. Swaminathan paid tributes to Homi Bhabha, who encouraged the application of nuclear tools in agriculture and medicine. Vikram Sarabhai was another extraordinary visionary, who wanted to use science for the benefit of the people. If nuclear, bio, space, communication and renewable energy technologies were combined, poverty and illiteracy could be overcome, he said.

Fresh challenges

S. Banerjee, Director, BARC, who presided, said it had plans to meet fresh challenges arising in the coming years. India was poised for a 10 per cent growth in GDP, which meant building enough infrastructure to provide electricity, water, food and even hydrogen. The per capita consumption of electricity in the country was 600 kwh a year, which was abysmally low. It had to be stepped up ten-fold without affecting environment. This was a big challenge and nuclear energy could play a significant role in this.

The BARC's immediate challenges were to accelerate activities to provide fuel for the fast breeder reactors which would come up; storing radioactive waste in a manner that would not affect future generations; and providing potable water using nuclear desalination.

S.D. Misra, Director, Nuclear Recycle Group, BARC, released a brochure, "Five Decades and Beyond, Contributions of the BARC Facilities." Prof. Swaminathan received the first copy.

Mr. Misra called the BARC mother-institution of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). The Nuclear Recycle Group was setting up the Waste Immobilisation Plant, the Power Reactor Fuel Reprocessing Plant and the Spent Fuel Storage Facility at Kalpakkam.

M.P. Patil, former Facility Director, BARC Facilities (BARCF), said the BARC not only catalysed the nuclear energy programme but also generated the culture of quality control in India.

S. Basu, Facility Director, BARCF, who welcomed the gathering, said Jawaharlal Nehru inaugurated the Atomic Energy Establishment (AEET) on January 20, 1957 and Indira Gandhi renamed it BARC in memory of Bhabha on January 12, 1967.

Dr. S.V. Narasimhan, Head, Water and Steam Chemistry Division, BARCF, proposed a vote of thanks.

Addressing a press conference later, Dr. Banerjee said a barge-mounted desalination plant developed by the BARC would be ready by the year-end. It could travel on the coast and provide potable water. It would be useful during natural calamities. (It could also be taken by road and rail). Mr. Misra said it could produce 50,000 litres of water a day.

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