Mumbai loses its Apsara

Asia’s first nuclear reactor will have to move out post Indo-US nuke deal

Apsara will move out to protect BARC’s other nuclear reactors from foreign inspection

Asia’s first nuclear reactor ‘Apsara’ will not be Mumbai’s pride henceforth. The reactor situated at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Turbhe, is set to be shift out of Mumbai. Apsara’s foundation stone was laid 51 years ago on August 4, 1956.

The development has been underlined with the finalisation of India’s nuclear deal with America on Friday. According to the deal, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will have the powers to inspect those of India’s nuclear reactors that are built from foreign assistance and are operational for civil purposes.

S K Malhotra, Executive Director (Media Relations) of BARC, confirmed the development. “Apsara’s core was built with an assistance from the United Kingdom. So only the core will be shifted from Mumbai. However, its new location has not been finalised yet,” he reveals.

Justifying the decision to shift Apsara, Malhotra says, “Apsara is situated in the BARC complex, which hosts other strategic nuclear reactors too which are completely indigenous and would not be open for inspection from any international body.

We don’t want any foreign body to come to the BARC at the pretext of inspecting ‘Apsara’. That is why the reactor will have to leave Mumbai.”

According to the pact, Apsara will be under IAEA’s inspection wherever it will be situated.

What Apsara meant

India’s nuclear power programme began with Apsara on August 4, 1956. It enabled Indian scientists and engineers to gain insights into the complexities of design and construction of a nuclear reactor and to learn the intricacies of controlling the nuclear fission chain reaction.

Apsara served as the stepping-stone for advanced work in several nuclear facilities that were subsequently set up at Turbhe. It is also used for research purposes by universities and educational institutions countrywide.

Swimming pool reactor

Apsara is a swimming pool type reactor loaded with enriched uranium as fuel. The fuel core is suspended from a movable trolley in a pool filled with water. The pool water serves as coolant, moderator and reflector, besides providing the shielding.

Father of the Indian atomic programme, Dr Homi Jehangir Bhabha, conceptualised Apsara’s design. It was built entirely by Indian engineers in a record time of about 15 months. It was named Apsara (celestial damsel or water nymph) by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru because of its swimming pool type reactor.

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