This Programme was formulated in the 1950s by Dr. Homi Bhabha to secure the country’s long-term energy independence, via the use of uranium and thorium reserves found in the monazite sands of coastal regions of South India especially the state of Kerala. The ultimate focus is on the Thorium Fuel Cycle.

In 1954 Asia’s first research reactor APSARA was installed. It was followed by CIRUS from Canada under the “Atoms for peace program” later India developed Dhruva which is still the largest supplier of Plutonium for weapons, besides them, BARC has developed ZERLINA and PURNIMA I-II-III out of them only DHRUVA is operating.

Indira Gandhi center for Atomic research has developed following research reactor –

  • Kamini
  • Fast Breeder test reactor
  • Prototype fast breeder reactor – it has not yet started the operation.

India’s Three Stage Nuclear Power Programme are as follows:

  • Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR)
  • Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR)
  • Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR)

Stag-1 (PHWR)

  • The first stage involved using natural uranium to fuel PHWR to produce electricity and producing Plutonium-239 as a by-product.
  • Kindly note here that the PHWRs were chosen for the first stage because in 1960s, India had the efficient reactor design in terms of uranium utilisation.
  • It was calculated that rather than going for creation of Uranium Enrichment Facilities, it would be wiser to create heavy water production.
  • Moreover, using Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors rather than Light Water Reactors was also a correct and wise decision. While Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors used unenriched uranium, Light Water Reactors required enriched uranium. Further, India could domestically produce the components of PWHR, as opposed to LWRs.
  • Furthermore, the by-product plutonium-239 would be used in the second stage.

First Stage: Following Reactors

  1. Boiling Water Reactor
  2. Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor
  3. Pressurized Water Reactor


  • In 1962, India signed an agreement with USA and got two BWR.
  • First installed reactor at Tarapore.
  • Light water as moderator and coolant
  • Enriched uranium as Fuel


  • Also known as CANDU- Canadian Deuterium Uranium
  • Heavy water as moderator and coolant
  • Natural uranium as fuel
  • Majority of India’s working reactor are this


  • Light Water Reactor
  • Light water as the moderator and coolant
  • Enriched uranium as fuel
  • USP is safety mechanisms incorporated in them
  • Belong to Generation III +

India is having PWR from Russia and France

VVER: Voda Voda Energy Reactor from Russia    

Stag-2 (FBR)

  • The second stage involves using plutonium-239 to produce mixed-oxide fuel, which would be used in Fast Breeder Reactors. Plutonium 239 undergoes fission to produce energy, and metal oxide is reacted with enriched uranium reacts with mixed-oxide fuel to produce more plutonium-239.
  • Furthermore, once a sufficient amount of plutonium-239 is built up, thorium will be used in the reactor, to produce Uranium-233. This uranium is crucial for the third stage.

Second stage: Only one type of reactor

Fast Breeder Reactor:

  • First at Kalpakkam in TN
  • Uses Pu-239 as fuel and u-238 is converted into Pu-239
  • Also known as Fast Neutron Reactor
  • No moderator
  • Coolant is liquid Na

Stag-3 (AHWR)

  • The main purpose of stage-3 is to achieve a sustainable nuclear fuel cycle. The advanced nuclear system would be used as a combination of Uranium-233 and Thorium. Thus, India’s vast thorium would be exploited, using a thermal breeder reactor.
  • Thorium use was reserved for the last stage because despite having significant availability, the use of Thorium in the production of energy has been full of certain challenges. It cannot be used directly.
  • Since it is a fertile material, it can be only used with added fissile material that can be enriched Uranium, Plutonium, or Uranium-233 (obtained after irradiation of Thorium).
  • Thorium absorbs neutrons, which can more efficiently produce more Plutonium in a Fast Breeder Reactor for faster growth.
  • Therefore, using Thorium in the first, or an early part of the second stage of the nuclear power program will adversely affect the rate of growth of nuclear power generation capacity in the initial periods.
  • Due to these reasons, large-scale deployment of Thorium was postponed until the later part of the second stage. Thorium is to be introduced only at an optimal point during the operation of Fast Breeder Reactors in the second stage.
  • Thorium, for power generation, is to be used mainly in the third stage.

AHWR: Advanced Heavy Water Reactor: BARC is developing

  • Fuel is U-233 but it will use Thorium to make U-233, so very important
  • Light water as coolant
  • Heavy water as moderator
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