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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Trombay

The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre is India's premier nuclear research and development center. The Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay was formally inaugurated by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on January 20, 1957. On January 12, 1967 Prime Minister Indira Gandhi renamed it as Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in memory of its founder Homi Bhabha who died in an air crash on January 24, 1966. BARC is located about an hour out of Bombay on a large compound, with spacious, tree-lined walks, enclosing not only the technical facility but also housing and related facilities that are shared by other Department of Atomic Energy scientists.

BARC's facilities include research reactors for research and radioisotope production, plants for manufacture of uranium metal and nuclear fuels, fuel reprocessing, waste immobilization and seismic stations. BARC is also engaged in basic research in materials, physical, chemical and biological sciences. BARC has five test reactors; radiochemistry and isotope laboratories; an isotope production and processing unit; pilot plants for production of heavy water, zirconium, and titanium; a thorium plant; a uranium metal plant; a pilot-scale fuel reprocessing plant; the Fuel Irradiation and Processing Laboratory; and supporting facilities. Fuel cycle R&D includes fuel reprocessing; HLW solidification; treatment of alpha-emitting wastes (incineration, wet oxidation, decontamination, and immobilization of cladding hulls); D&D; and waste isolation in geologic formations.

Two of the research reactors located at BARC in Trombay produce plutonium for nuclear weapons.

The Canadian designed CIRUS 40 MW heavy water reactor (HWR) began operation in 1960, based on the CANDU design. CANDU stands for CANadian Deuterium Uranium reactor -- playing on the North American boast of capability, "can do". The CANDU is a Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) using heavy water (deuterium) as both a moderator and coolant. The CANDU reactor core is a horizontal cylinder known as a "calandria". Through the calandria run hundreds of horizontal tubes, inside which are pressure tubes containing fuel bundles. Light Water Reactors require enriched uranium fuel at about 2% to 4% uranium235 and use a relatively poor moderator (ordinary "light" water); whereas CANDU reactors use natural uranium at about 0.7% uranium235, but have a very good moderator (heavy water). Heavy water is very expensive and difficult to manufacture, making CANDU more expensive than other reactor designs. The CANDU reactors possess on-line refuelling capability -- the reactor continues to operate while fuel is being removed and inserted. This makes it much more difficult to determine if spent fuel is being removed to make plutonium for nuclear weapons. Because CANDU uses natural uranium, fuel enrichment is not required. Since uranium enrichment is difficult and expensive, this may make it easier for a CANDU owner to build a bomb.

The Dhruva 100 MW heavy water reactor of Indian design began operation in 1985, though it initially experienced problems that delayed significant plutonium production for several years. Of all the research reactors at BARC, Dhruva at BARC represents the most significant engineering achievement. This high neutron flux reactor was designed, constructed and commissioned entirely by Indian engineers. It uses natural uranium as fuel and heavy water as moderator and coolant. It has many new features and is very useful in investigations pertaining to power reactor technology, basic research and production of radioisotopes required for special applications.


Ikonos Imagery of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Trombay - 17 March 2000

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