PMO: Press Information Bureau; Government of India
Thursday, October 30, 2008
20:40 IST

The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh launched the Birth Centenary Celebration of Dr. Homi Jahangir Bhabha today through a Video Conference from New Delhi addressing a gathering at BARC Mumbai. Following is the text of the Prime Minister's address on the occasion:

"It gives me very great pleasure to launch the celebrations to commemorate the birth centenary of Dr Homi Bhabha. Over the next one-year, we will celebrate the far-sighted vision and scientific and intellectual legacy of Dr. Homi Bhabha. It was a vision that was shared and supported by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. These two great sons and intellectual giants of our country were the fathers of our atomic energy programme.

I thank Dr. Anil Kakodkar and all the scientists, engineers and officials of the Department of Atomic Energy for all the excellent work they have done. I congratulate the four distinguished scientists we are honouring today with Lifetime Achievement Awards. I wish each one of them still greater success in the years to come. They are truly role models for our future generations.

Dr. Bhabha's leadership of the atomic energy programme spanned 22 years. It began in 1944 with a letter he wrote to the Sir Dorabji Trust proposing the establishment of an institute devoted to fundamental research. He continued his work with passion and commitment right till his untimely death in an air accident in 1966.

Since the setting up of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in December 1945 we have come a long way. This has been possible because of the strong foundations laid by Dr Bhabha during his lifetime.

The three stage nuclear programme, based on a closed nuclear fuel cycle, was first outlined by Dr. Bhaba in a Conference on Development of Atomic Energy for Peaceful Purposes in India held as early as 1954 in New Delhi . It was based on self-reliance and sought to exploit our plentiful thorium reserves and our existing industrial capability.

The choice of Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors, PHWRs, for the first stage was guided by the industrial capability that existed in India at that particular time. The second stage is the Fast Breeder Reactor using plutonium fuel. The third stage is the development of advanced nuclear power systems for utilization of thorium.

Dr. Bhabha sought to achieve a balance between indigenous development and international cooperation. He negotiated the setting up of reactors at Tarapur on a turnkey basis to demonstrate our willingness to take recourse to international trade in commercial nuclear power. But he also went ahead with the opening of uranium mines at Jadugoda in Singbhum despite its seemingly unviable ore grade. That was at a time when uranium was available in the international market.

Thus we got a head start in nuclear power as well as our self-reliant three stage development with a robust and commercially successful first stage consisting of PHWRs that operated on natural uranium produced at Jadugoda.

The speed with which we can develop nuclear power is constrained by the availability of uranium. The initiative to open civil nuclear trade with the international community is a step towards accelerating the development of nuclear energy in the service of our country. This initiative will have far reaching effects on the growth of nuclear energy in India and I can say that it is a period of transition in our programme.

I warmly congratulate our scientists and diplomats on this spectacular achievement. It proves that when we put our mind to something, we can work unitedly and deliver the goods. It is with the same zeal and dedication that our scientific community has been working all along. The nation is proud of their impressive accomplishments.

The civil nuclear initiative is a good deal. It will open up new avenues of cooperation. The integrity of our 3 Stage nuclear programme will not be affected. The autonomy of our Research and Development activity, including development of our fast breeder reactors and the thorium programme, in the nuclear field will remain unaffected. There will be no interference in any scrutiny of our strategic programme.

We are now working towards formalizing international cooperation with willing partners in the international community including the US , Russia , France , UK , Canada , Kazakhstan and others. The government will continue to provide its full support to continuation of all indigenous programmes.

As we develop and expand the nuclear power programme, I believe that we should redouble our efforts in promoting indigenous R&D and manufacturing capabilities and in the autonomous pursuit of the three stage nuclear programme and the strategic programme.

We have mastered the PHWR technology through the efforts of our scientists and engineers. As we open up to new technologies from abroad, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India should continue to develop the market for these reactors both in India and abroad. I understand there is interest among a number of friendly countries in this regard. Our scientists and engineers have shown that they can compete with the very best in the world.

NPCIL will also play a major role in the rapid assimilation of Light Water Reactor technology and we expect that it will soon come to India .

It will be necessary for foreign energy firms to manufacture nuclear equipment in India . This will boost our manufacturing industry. Our industry has the capability to emerge as an important player in the global market for nuclear equipment.

The DAE should continue R&D on new reactor systems as well as the associated fuel cycle, including reprocessing of spent fuel. We look forward to the early start of the construction of the Advanced Heavy Water Reactor.

We should use the opportunities offered by international cooperation to accelerate our R&D programme. In the area of nuclear science and engineering, development in India has been taking place in isolation. Many innovations developed by our scientists may not have any parallels in other countries. Therefore, we can make an intellectual contribution to the global scientific community, benefiting ourselves from such exchanges.

India has contributed successfully towards the construction of the Large Hadron Collidor built by CERN in Geneva . We are a party to the most advanced global project in the area of fusion science - ITER. India is also part of the advanced research reactor project being built in France, the Jules Horowitz Reactor. Clearly our capabilities particularly in nuclear science and engineering are being recognized the world over.

An expanded nuclear power programme cannot be sustained without high quality human resources. I recall coming to BARC on the occasion of the 50th Graduation Function of the BARC Training School set up by Dr. Homi Bhabha. I had said then that it is our scientists and engineers who have laid the building blocks of self-reliance in the field of nuclear science and technology and of India emerging as a knowledge economy. I sincerely hope that the Homi Bhabha National Institute will carry forward the great intellectual legacy and vision of Dr Bhabha.

In August 1955, Dr. Homi Bhabha said "For the full industrialization of the under-developed countries, for the continuation of our civilization and its further development, atomic energy is not merely an aid, it is an absolute necessity. The acquisition by man of the knowledge of how to release and use atomic energy must be recognized as the third epoch of human history."

Dr. Homi Bhabha spent his whole life in pursuit of this grand vision. He inspired a generation of scientists with his bold dreams and ambitions for the nation and his selfless service. He was a great scientific pioneer and a great builder of modern India

We have now removed the restraints that have hindered the atomic energy programme in the past. If we show the same wisdom, pragmatism and foresight that Dr. Homi Bhabha did, I have no doubt that we will move ahead purposefully and substantially to realize his grand vision. I would like to assure the DAE fraternity of the full support of the Government of India in this very important national endeavour. I commend every one you for your commitment to this great national enterprise."