Initial impetus for nuclear programme was given by Dr. Homi Bhabha, who on March 12, 1944, penned a letter to the leading industrialist family, “the Tatas.”
“An institute is needed,” he pleaded, “as an embryo from which I hope to build, in the course of time, a school of physics comparable to the best in the world. When nuclear energy has been successfully applied to power production in, say, a couple of decades from now, India will not have to look abroad for experts, but will find them ready at home.”
So the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research was born with Bhabha as its director. Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru was a firm believer in the efficacy of science in fostering economic development. “It is science alone that can solve the problems of hunger and poverty, of insanitation and insecurity of a vast rich country inhabited by starving people.”
“Bhabha’s views were no different”, he observed, “what the developed countries have and underdeveloped lack is modern science and an economy based on modern technology.” (Dr. Bhabas birth centenary was celebrated in Dec. 2009).
Nuclear power generation was initiated in India in July 1969 with the commissioning of the Tarapur atomic power plant of 440 MW in Maharashtra. The second atomic power plant was commissioned in August 1972 at Rana Pratap Sagar in Rajasthan.
The Tarapur atomic plant was set up with technical and financial aid from the United States of America. The Canadian government rendered the necessary expertise for the Rana Pratap Sagar atomic power plant.
In the 1950s, India’s nuclear planners drew up a three-stage plan for nuclear power development. Stage one was to consist of operating power plants using Indian uranium and also producing plutonium.
In stage two, plutonium would be used in fast breeder reactors which could yield more plutonium and uranium 233 from thorium of which India has an abundance. In the third and final stage, India would use U-233 to sustain breeders, which would convert thorium into U-233, thereby achieving self-reliance.