Thu, Sep 13, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Nuclear sub almost ready, says scientist


India has kept its efforts to build a nuclear submarine under wraps for more than 30 years. But a top Indian scientist has confirmed that the ongoing project at the Kalpakkam nuclear facility near Chennai to develop a nuclear reactor fueled by enriched uranium was in fact intended to power the country's first indigenously built submarine.

After several setbacks, the top secret military program appears to be nearing completion and the nuclear submarine, codenamed the Advanced Technology Vehicle, is expected to undergo sea trials next year before its induction into the Indian Navy in 2009.

"Indian scientists and technologists are capable of making light water reactors and we are already constructing a [light water reactor] at Kalpakkam in south India for the submarine," the former chairman of India's Atomic Energy Commission, PK Iyengar, said at a public debate on the Indo-US nuclear deal in Mumbai on Saturday.

Light water reactors, which use ordinary water to produce steam for running the turbines that produce the power, are considered safer and therefore more suitable for submarines.

Indian scientists appear to have successfully developed a larger version of such a reactor at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research in Kalpakkam.

It is not clear whether they have succeeded in miniaturizing the reactor for use in a submarine.

The nuclear submarine is being built at the naval shipyard at Visakhapatnam port on the Bay of Bengal, and is a joint project involving several government and private organizations, including the Navy, the Defense Research and Development Organization once headed by former president Abdul Kalam and the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai, which is the main facility for producing India's nuclear bombs.

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