India on Enrichment

Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of India Dr Srikumar Banerjee recently “gave an interview”: in which he appeared to mention the possibility of India using a new unsafeguarded enrichment facility for its nuclear arsenal.

He said:

bq. As far as the new facility in Chitradurga is concerned, it will not be a safeguarded facility. *We are keeping the option open of using it for multiple roles.*

To be clear, he didn’t mention nuclear weapons, just that the facility could “be used to produce slightly enriched uranium (SEU) with about 1.1 per cent U-235 content to fuel our pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR) units.”

Doubt this will shock anyone, but there it is.


An astute reader suggested that Banerjee might have been referring to the production of fuel for India’s subs. I don’t think so because of his response to a direct question about that subject:

bq.. Saurav Jha:Is your current enrichment capability sufficient to fuel India’s emerging nuclear submarine fleet or will that be attained only with Chitradurga? If not then will Chitradurga be used only for civilian power reactors?

Dr Srikumar Banerjee: Our *existing site is more than adequate for feeding the fleet.* And this fleet is of course more than one.

p. *Update II:*

Another astute reader finds the PHWR fuel scenario plausible, noting that India presumably wouldn’t want to put safeguarded fuel in unsafeguarded reactors. I hadn’t thought about that.

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