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HVK Archives: A turning point in raising national morale (Interview with Anil Kakodkar)

A turning point in raising national morale (Interview with Anil Kakodkar) - The Times of India

Girish Kuber ()
July 30, 1998

Title: A turning point in raising national morale (Interview with Anil Kakodkar)
Author: Girish Kuber
Publication: The Times of India
Date: July 30, 1998

"You can do much better science in India Science is universal You
don't have to go to West to study it," says Anil Kakodkar. As a
nuclear reactor engineer, Kakodkar played a key role in design
and construction of 100 MW Dhruva reactor, at Bhabha Atomic
Research Centre, BARC. The Dhruva is one of the most powerful
systems of its type and where several new technologies related to
electron beam welding, reactive material fabrication and
dissimilar metal joints have been deployed on a large scale for
the first time.

Dr Kakodkar's work in rehabilitation of both reactor units at
Kalpakkam and Unit 1 at Rajasthan, all of which at one stage were
on the verge of being written off, is a matter of pride to Indian
scientific community. His years of dedication and pioneering
efforts in indigenous development of a large number of critical
systems of heavy water reactors; his contribution to safety
related research and his initiating several new state-Ofthe-art
technologies for this reactor system have significantly
contributed to our self-reliant capability in the area of nuclear
power reactors

As the director of BARC, Dr Kakodkar was one of the scientists
trio, with Dr A P J Abdul Kalam and Dr R Chidambaram as the other
two, who were the architects of Pokhran II. In the serene
atmosphere of the BARC the media-shy Dr Kakodkar spoke to Girish
Kuber. Excerpts from an hour- long interview:

Q: From the layman's point of view, what's the difference between
Pokhran I and Pokhran II
A: In 1974 only one fission device was used. This time there were
five different types; the most important of them had to do with
the hydrogen bomb. But the basic idea behind the Pokhran II was
to cheek various ideas.

Q: Were the tests a real technical necessity?
A: They were absolutely necessary, though these decisions are not
taken just on technical considerations. You have to experiment
with your knowledge. Ideas alone will not do. The only way to
corroborate your ideas is to experiment. That's the thing we did
in Pokhran II. It establishes our preparedness as well.

Q: Besides enhancing defence capabilities, what are the other
important gains from Pokhran II?
A: The main thing we could establish is our control over the
fission process. In the long-term planning for nuclear energy,
developing our skills to control this process are extremely
important.

Q: Can we afford the investments needed for our nuclear
programme?
A: See, a major chunk of our precious foreign exchange is spent
on importing hydrocarbons. The situation will worsen in coming
years. So we have to tap all available energy sources. Other
countries, particularly the West, have sufficient reserves.
Considering our size, we will be the first to feel the pinch.

Q: There are other national priorities besides nuclear tests.
Don't you think so?
A: What you say is correct. For overall development, attention
has to be given to other areas also. But the other crucial thing
necessary for pursuing development programmes is morale. Pokhran
II has been successful in raising the national morale. This will
go down in history as a turning point.

Q: What about the environmental hazards of nuclear power
generation?
A: Poverty is the worst polluter. We should not forget this. You
cannot rule out dangers to the environment. However there are
definite and successful ways to clean it if you possess
sufficient energy. And we are far behind in that. US generates
something around 100,000 MW, France is generating 50 to 60,000 MW
of nuclear energy. Ours is meagre with just 2000 MW. By the year
2020, we want to achieve the capacity to generate 20,000 MW of
nuclear energy.

Q: The problem of nuclear waste is getting compounded day by day.
What is the Indian scenario?
A: We are yet to face that problem. For two reasons. One, the
size of our programme is much smaller. And second, the recycling
technique we have achieved. This problem is grave in those
countries that do only single processing of radioactive material.
But in India 99 per cent of the plutonium used is recycled.

Q: What are the chances of fusion power generation rather than
the existing technology of fission power?
A: Although all over the world research is going on over fusion
power, success is not in sight. And as of now the cost involved
is exorbitant. The European Union, Japan, US are working on it,
and at least in the near future fission will not be replaced by
fusion.

Q: Migration of our brilliant brains to western world is a
concern always expressed by the Indian scientific community. How
do you look at the problem?
A: It's not a major threat. In India there is no dearth of human
resources at all.

Q: But those who want to leave complain about the lack of
facilities and infrastructure here.
A: That is just a pretext. Why can't you do better science here?
Private and purely material gains could be the only reason behind
their departure. It's very challenging to work here. Here you can
see the things actually happening which you always dreamt. For a
scientist there is nothing more satisfying. And if you believe
that science is universal, then what's the need to leave your
country?


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