• The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) is India’s premier nuclear research facility, headquartered in Trombay, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.
  • It was founded by Homi Jehangir Bhabha as the Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay (AEET) in January 1954 as a multidisciplinary research program essential for India’s nuclear program.
  • BARC operates under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), which is directly overseen by the Prime Minister of India.
Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC)


  • BARC’s foundational mandate has been to promote and sustain the peaceful applications of nuclear energy.
  • While its history includes significant contributions to India’s nuclear weapons program, its core focus has always been on harnessing nuclear science for the betterment of society through research, development, and innovation.

History of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre

  • When Homi Jehangir Bhabha was working at the Indian Institute of Science, there was no institute in India which had the necessary facilities for original work in nuclear physics, cosmic rays, high energy physics, and other frontiers of knowledge in physics.
  • This prompted him to send a proposal in March 1944 to the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust for establishing “a vigorous school of research in fundamental physics”.
  • When Bhabha realised that technology development for the atomic energy programme could no longer be carried out within TIFR he proposed to the government to build a new laboratory entirely devoted to this purpose. 
  • Thus the Atomic Energy Establishment Trombay (AEET) started functioning in 1954. The same year the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) was also established.
  • Bhabha established the BARC Training School to cater to the manpower needs of the expanding atomic energy research and development program. Bhabha emphasized self-reliance in all fields of nuclear science and engineering.

Research Focus Areas

  • BARC’s impressive scope of research spans across numerous scientific domains, making it a true multidisciplinary research center. Some of its key research areas include:
    • Nuclear Science
      • At the heart of its mission, BARC delves deep into nuclear physics, reactor technology, and related fields. This includes theoretical reactor design, computer modeling, risk analysis, and testing of new reactor fuel.
    • Chemical Engineering
      • Chemical engineering plays a vital role in nuclear processes, from fuel development to waste management. BARC’s expertise extends to developing and optimizing chemical processes in the nuclear context.
    • Material Sciences and Metallurgy
      • The center conducts groundbreaking research in material sciences and metallurgy to improve the durability and efficiency of nuclear components.
    • Electronic Instrumentation
      • Advanced electronic instrumentation is critical for monitoring and controlling nuclear processes, and BARC is at the forefront of developing cutting-edge instrumentation technologies.
    • Biology and Medicine
      • BARC’s research in biology and medicine has led to significant advancements in radiation therapy, cancer treatment, and medical imaging.
    • Applications of Radiation in Nuclear Agriculture
      • BARC develops high yielding seed varieties by inducing mutations using Gamma radiation. Gamma radiation only accelerates the mutations which otherwise occurs naturally over a much longer periods of time. So far BARC released 49 seed varieties for commercial exploitation. Mutations can be in such a way that the crops mature early, to withstand biotic and abiotic stresses and to obtain better nutritional quality.
    • Supercomputing
      • Supercomputers are indispensable for complex simulations in nuclear research. BARC houses powerful supercomputing infrastructure for various scientific endeavors.
    • High-energy Physics and Plasma Physics
      • Exploration of high-energy physics and plasma physics contributes to a deeper understanding of nuclear phenomena and has applications in fusion research.

Core Responsibilities

  • Nuclear Power Generation
    • BARC’s involvement in nuclear power generation is comprehensive. It encompasses reactor design, safety assessments, and performance optimization. The center’s contributions extend from the drawing board to operational reactor facilities.
  • Fuel Development
    • Research and development activities at BARC focus on creating and testing new reactor fuels, ensuring efficiency, safety, and sustainability in nuclear power generation.
  • Waste Management
    • Safe disposal of nuclear waste is a paramount concern. BARC pioneers research in waste management strategies, seeking environmentally responsible solutions.
  • Isotope Applications
    • BARC explores industrial applications for isotopes, which have diverse uses in fields such as healthcare, agriculture, and industry.
  • Radiation Technologies
    • Radiation technologies developed at BARC find application in a wide range of sectors, including healthcare, food processing, and environmental monitoring.
  • Accelerator and Laser Technology
    • The center’s expertise in accelerator and laser technologies contributes to advanced scientific research and industrial applications.
  • Electronics and Instrumentation
    • BARC’s electronics and instrumentation advancements are instrumental in reactor control and monitoring, ensuring the safety and efficiency of nuclear processes.
  • Material Science
    • Material science research at BARC leads to the development of materials with unique properties, critical for nuclear applications.
  • Environmental Monitoring
    • The center actively monitors radiation levels and conducts environmental studies to ensure safety and compliance with regulatory standards.
  • Research Reactors
    • BARC operates a network of research reactors across India. These reactors are used for a wide array of scientific purposes, including isotope production, nuclear research, and neutron-based experiments.

India’s three-stage nuclear power programme

  • Stage I – Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor
    • In the first stage of the programme, natural uranium fueled pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWR) produce electricity while generating plutonium-239 as by-product. PHWRs was a natural choice for implementing the first stage because it had the most efficient reactor design in terms of uranium utilisation.
  • Stage II – Fast Breeder Reactor
    • In the second stage, fast breeder reactors (FBRs) would use a mixed oxide (MOX) fuel made from plutonium-239, recovered by reprocessing spent fuel from the first stage, and natural uranium. In FBRs, plutonium-239 undergoes fission to produce energy, while the uranium-238 present in the mixed oxide fuel transmutes to additional plutonium-239.
  • Stage III – Thorium Based Reactors
    • A Stage III reactor or an Advanced nuclear power system involves a self-sustaining series of thorium-232–uranium-233 fuelled reactors. This would be a thermal breeder reactor, which in principle can be refueled – after its initial fuel charge – using only naturally occurring thorium. According to the three-stage programme, Indian nuclear energy could grow to about 10 GW through PHWRs fueled by domestic uranium, and the growth above that would have to come from FBRs till about 50GW.

Reactor design

ReactorPurpose and History
APSARAApsara was India’s first nuclear reactor built at BARC in 1956 to conduct basic research in nuclear physics. It is 1 MWTh light water cooled and moderated swimming pool type thermal reactor that went critical on 4 August 1956 and is suitable for production of isotopes, basic nuclear research, shielding experiments, neutron activation analysis, neutron radiography and testing of neutron detectors. It was shutdown permanently in 2010 and replaced with Apsara-U
APSARA-UApsara-U or Apsara-Upgraded is a replacement for APSARA. It is 2 MWTh light water cooled and moderated swimming pool type thermal reactor fuelled with uranium silicide. It went critical on September 10, 2018, and is suitable for production of isotopes, basic nuclear research, shielding experiments, neutron activation analysis and testing of neutron detectors.
ZERLINAZERLINA was a Heavy water cooled and moderated vertical tank type thermal reactor built to conduct reactor lattice studies that first went critical on 14 January 1961. It was decommissioned in 1983.
DhruvaDhruva is a 100 MWth heavy water moderated and cooled vertical tank type thermal reactor primarily used for production of radioisotopes and weapons grade plutonium-239 for nuclear weapons and was successor to the Canadian built CIRUS reactor at BARC. It first went critical on August 8, 1985, and was later upgraded in the late 2010s.
Purnima-IPurnima-I is a Plutonium oxide fuelled 1 MWTh pulsed-fast reactor that was built starting in 1970 and went critical on 18 May 1972 to primarily support the validation of design parameters for development of Plutonium-239 powered nuclear weapons. On the twentieth anniversary of the 1974 Pokhran nuclear test, Purnima’s designer, P. K. Iyengar, reflected on the reactor’s critical role: ” Purnima was a novel device, built with about 20 kg of plutonium, a variable geometry of reflectors, and a unique control system. This gave considerable experience and helped to benchmark calculations regarding the behaviour of a chain-reacting system made out of plutonium. The kinetic behaviour of the system just above critical could be well studied. Very clever physicists could then calculate the time behaviour of the core of a bomb on isotropic compression. What the critical parameters would be, how to achieve optimum explosive power, and its dependence on the first self sustaining neutron trigger, were all investigated”.It was decommissioned in 1973.
Purnima-IIPurnima-II is Uranium-233 fuelled 100 mW vertical tank type thermal reactor built to support Uranium-233 fuel studies and was decommissioned in 1986.
Purnima-IIIPurnima-III Uranium-233 fuelled 1 WTh vertical tank type thermal reactor built to conduct mockup studies for the KAMINI reactor built at IGCAR, Kalpakkam. It was decommissioned in 1996.
FBTRThe Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) is a breeder reactor located at Kalpakkam, India. The Indira Gandhi Center for Atomic Research (IGCAR) and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) jointly designed, constructed, and operate the reactor. The reactor was designed to produce 40 MW of thermal power and 13.2 MW of electrical power. The initial nuclear fuel core used in the FBTR consisted of approximately 50 kg of weapons-grade plutonium. The reactor uses a plutonium-uranium mixed carbide fuel and liquid sodium as a coolant. The fuel is an indigenous mix of 70 percent plutonium carbide and 30 percent uranium carbide. Plutonium for the fuel is extracted from irradiated fuel in the Madras power reactors and reprocessed in Tarapur.Some of the uranium is created from the transmutation of thorium bundles that are also placed in the core. Using the experience gained from the operation of the FBTR, a 500 MWe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) is in advanced stage of construction at Kalpakkam.

Nuclear Weapons Research

  • Smiling Buddha Test
    • BARC played a pivotal role in India’s first successful nuclear test, codenamed “Smiling Buddha” in 1974. The test marked a significant achievement in India’s nuclear capabilities and showcased the scientific prowess of BARC.
  • Pokhran-II Tests
    • In 1998, India conducted a series of nuclear tests under the banner of “Pokhran-II,” which included both fission and thermonuclear devices. BARC played a central role in these tests, providing technological know-how and confidence for future nuclear endeavors.
  • Technology Advancement
    • These tests not only expanded India’s nuclear weapons capabilities but also advanced its ability to produce nuclear fuel for power generation and research.

Nuclear Submarine Program

  • INS Arihant
    • BARC’s involvement in India’s nuclear submarine program led to the successful design and construction of the nuclear power unit for INS Arihant, India’s first nuclear-powered submarine. This achievement marked a significant step towards India’s naval nuclear capabilities.

International Collaborations

  • BARC collaborates with prestigious national and international scientific projects, fostering knowledge exchange and joint research efforts.
  • These collaborations include participation in projects such as CERN (Large Hadron Collider), India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO), and ITER (nuclear fusion research).

Recent Developments and Expansions

  • New Campuses
    • BARC has expanded its footprint with planned facilities in Atchutapuram, near Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, and Challakere in Chitradurga district, Karnataka. These expansions aim to meet the growing demands for research and development in the nuclear sector.
  • Special Research Reactor
    • A notable project in progress is the construction of a Special Mineral Enrichment Facility in Atchutapuram, which focuses on uranium fuel enrichment. This facility supports India’s nuclear submarine program and produces high specific activity radioisotopes for extensive research applications.


  • Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) is a pioneering institution that epitomizes India’s commitment to nuclear science and technology.
  • Its multidisciplinary research, historical achievements, and ongoing contributions to both peaceful applications and national security make it an invaluable asset to India and the global scientific community.

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