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Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy in India

This article describes about the peaceful uses of Nuclear Energy in India. Also read about how it can be used to generate energy and electricity

Nuclear energy can be put to numerous productive uses. Nuclear powered generators produce electricity. Nuclear energy, in the form of radioisotopes, can be used in medicine, agriculture and industry. It can help in the preservation of food and the production of high yielding seeds. Recently vaccine for sheep has been developed with the help of nuclear energy.

In the days if energy crisis nuclear energy is a boon. Electricity can be produced even in those areas where there are no natural resources to generate electricity. The great generated by controlled nuclear reaction can be used to boil water and the steam thus produced can be used to drive turbines for producing electricity. India has one nuclear power station 420 megawatts capacity operating at Tarapur. Two power stations of similar capacity, one at at Rana Pratap Sagar in Rajasthan and another at Kalpakkam near Chennai are operational. A fourth station at Narora in Uttar Pradesh, on the eastern bank of the Ganga is also operational. Atomic power, besides conserving fossil fuels such as oil and coal and reducing atmospheric pollution, has tremendous economic advantage over coal; because the problem of transport is obviated. The Tarapur station, for example needs only twenty two tons of fuel each year whereas a coal fixed station of similar capacity would need 1200.000 tons coal annually. Besides Uranium as fuel, nuclear power stations need heavy water as a moderator. The fast moving atomic particles have to be slowed down by allowing them to collide with heavy hydrogen atoms. Heavy water occurs in very small quantities in natural water and its artificial production is not only complicated but expensive also. The requirements, at present, are met by a plant with an annual capacity of fourteen tons at Nangal in Punjab. The plant makes use of the throw away water from the Nangal fertilizer. Three more plants are under construction at Kota in Rajasthan, Baroda in Gujarat of Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu. All of these, together, will produce around 240 tons of heavy water annually. A fifth plant at Talcher in Orissa is at the planning stage.

Radiation from radioactive substances like radium have for many years been used for the treatment of cancer. Cancerous cells are more sensitive to radiation than normal cells. The nuclear reactor has opened up vast new possibilities because numerous other elements can be made radioactive by ‘bombarding' them in these reactors. Such substances can be of immense help in medicine, agriculture and industry. Radioisotopes are introduced into a system and their course is traced by means of radiation detecting equipment. The use of radioactive isotopes has helped in diagnosis and the prevention of diseases, in the development of agricultural methods, for greater production making fertilizers and efficient methods of insect and pest control, for detection of defects in machinery, better control of industrial processes and in oceanography. For example, radioactive iodine is the most widely used substance in medicine. The human thyroid gland in the neck selectively concentrates iodine from the blood for hormone synthesis. By using radioactive iodine the function of the thyroid gland can be accurately investigated. The method can also be employed for treating cancerous and other diseases of the gland. Cobalt-60 needles can also be implanted in body to treat cancer. A radiation alternated vaccine has immunized sheep from lungworm disease which used to take a huge toll of sheep. Moreover, young lambs treated with the vaccine have been found to yield more mutton and the wool. A vaccine manufacturing unit set up in Kashmir valley under United Nations Development Program assistance program will go into large scale production soon.

The scientists at Trombay have deposited radioactive sand in various harbours and have followed its movements on the seabed and thereby selected some possible sites for dredged silt. Radioisotopes can save a huge amount of money in the long run. United States of America saves nearly one hundred dollars millions through industrial applications of radioisotopes. The Trombay unit produces nearly three hundred and twenty different types of isotopes and many of them are exported to the United States and Western Europe.

Perishable food stuffs if exposed to radiation are found to remain fresh beyond their normal shelf life. Since canning was discovered radiation of food is a major break though in food preservations. This method of preserving food has many advantages over other methods like canning, drying and salting; it preserves flavor and texture of the food stuff. Moreover, small doses of radiation can be used to prevent sprouting and the consequent spoiling of onions and potatoes. Higher doses can be used to delay the ripening of the fruits like mangoes, bananas. In this manner the shelf-life of the fruits can be prolonged. Even fish can be used for disinfecting grains. This can be a tremendous gain to tropical countries like India where the shelf-life of fruits and vegetables is very short. A modern laboratory at the Bhabha Atomic Research Center, Trombay is doing extensive work and semi-commercial food processing plants are still to be set up. Adverse climatic conditions, inadequate provisions for storage, and transport problems account for a heavy loss of agricultural and marine produce. Thus through food radiation we will be able to improve nutrition of our people and utilize our limited resources to the best advantage.

Radiation can also be used to bring about genetic changes in grain seeds. This in its turn will produce mutant strain, having different properties. Plants, thus grown, will mature earlier and become fruit bearing earlier. It will also be able to stand adverse conditions like bad weather, pests, etc. Trombay Irradiation Center has produced a new mutant paddy strain, which matures three weeks earlier and yields twenty percent more. They are carrying on research on groundnut nowadays. There is another center which studies the effects of radiation on growing plants.

Nuclear explosions can be helpful in building dams and mining. For building dams and mining deep under the earth nuclear explosion can help a lot. The explosions in which conventional material is used are neither effective nor economical. Obviously oil and natural gas exploration will be quicker and better with the help of nuclear devices. For releasing natural gas this device was used by the United States of America in 1967 in New Mexico. Atomic blasts can pulverize the ore, making the extraction of the metal from the low-yielding fields possible. Similarly the water retention capacity of the dry lands can be increased with the help of blasts.

India has vast potential for developing the natural resources and industry. Energy crisis which disturbed the economy of our country can be met only by harnessing the nuclear energy.

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