When India became a free country in 1947, the world had already entered into the nuclear age (the Soviets and Americans anyway). India’s leaders took a policy of self reliance in all matters nuclear, not wanting to get caught up in the cold war. In 1948 India set up its own atomic energy commission to search for and extract uranium ore. The atomic energy commission then set up the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) later that year as a public sector enterprise.


The UCIL, under the administrative control of India’s atomic energy commission, began its first uranium operations in 1968 at Jaduguda with ore mining and processing facilities, each with a 1,000 metric tones per day capacity. The UCIL has opened a new mine in Narwapahar and expanded the capacity of the Jaduguda processing plant in order to keep up with India’s demand for uranium. Its current assets include: Underground Mines at Jaduguda, Bhatin Narwapahar; Ore Processing Plant at Jaduguda for producing Uranium concentrate and plants for uranium mineral recovery from copper tailings at Mosaboni & Rakha. All the facilities are located in Singhbum, the east district of India. There has been strange defects in both people and nature in the area around the Jaduguda facility. The UCIL claim their site is completely safe, but in the immediate area around the facility, 47% of village women report a disruption in menstrual cycle and 18% have had a stillborn. 70% of villagers have TB. Fruit grown around the facility have become seedless.

India’s 1st reactor

India completed negations to build a nuclear reactor with the aid of the US and Canada in 1956. The US agrees to supply the “heavy water” for the 40 megawatt research reactor. The 1st commercial reactor began operation in 1969 in Tarapur.

India’s nuclear weapon development

In 1958 India began designing and purchasing equipment for a plutonium reprocessing facility, leading the way for nuclear weapons. The US trained a handful of Indian scientists in 1959 on how to handle and process plutonium safely. In 1963 two 210 megawatt reactors were ordered for the Tarapur Atomic Power Station from General Electric. The United States and India agreed plutonium from India's reactors will not be used for research for atomic weapons or for military purposes. In 1964 a plutonium processing facility began operation. In 1965 India’s neighbor, China, detonated a nuclear bomb. The chair of the Atomic Energy Commission proposed an underground nuclear explosion project. The US withdrew military aid from India after its 1965 war with Pakistan. India announced that it would be able to construct a nuclear bomb in 18 months, should the need arise. In 1968 India refused to sign the international non-proliferation treaty.

India’s 1st bomb

In 1974 India detonated a 15 kiloton nuclear bomb, nicknamed “Smiling Buddha”. India’s press release called it a “peaceful nuclear explosion”. After the blast Canada and the US suspended nuclear cooperation. The Soviet Union became India’s main supplier of “heavy water”.

India becomes a nuclear capable state

On May 11th-13th, 1998, India detonated 5 nuclear devices underground in opposition to many of its citizens, who wanted nothing to do with nuclear bombs. After the last detonation, India declared itself a nuclear capable state, like its neighbors China and Pakistan. India’s current nuclear arsenal is estimated at between 60 and 250 nuclear weapons, with a missile range of 2,000 miles.


"Nuclear History In India, Pakistan,"
New York Times

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