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Nuclear India at critical juncture

With the indigenous nuclear submarine INS Airhant becoming officially active on 10 August, that is to say its nuclear reactor going critical and capable of generating nuclear power to man and propel the submarine, India clearly took a giant step forward in the history of bolstering its defence capabilities. Arihant, which literally means ‘destroyer of enemies’, more or less has been brought alive with a beating heart, as it were, with the reactor going critical, thus completing the nuclear weapons triad, which allows for the launch of missiles from land, air and now under sea.

The reactor is expected to burn low enriched Uranium-235 (LEU) to fuel its core that will in turn energise the boiler to create combustion, giving rise to steam that will turn the turbine and run and propellers, thereby changing the rules of engagement in the theatre of South Asian naval defence theatre. Moreover, with the INS Arihant going critical, India has broken into the big five league, comprising US, China, UK, Russia and France, who can veto power in UN, and who have in their possession the completed nuclear triad. Now that India has a functioning nuclear submarine of its own, it will stop importing LEU to power other nuclear plants that generate electricity, such as in Tarapore or even Kudankulam.

In addition, since Arihant reactor’s containment chamber is made of a special insular steel that completely seals off the reactor in case of any emergency, there are minimum chances of any untoward incident marring the current euphoria in the defence frontiers of the country. India needed a strategic warhead to fortify its naval circuits that are being increasingly targeted by international intruders, not only pirates on global waters but also patrolling foreign vessels that pose a security threat.

India’s other nuclear submarine, INS Chakra, is on a 10-year lease from Russia, but it’s not armed with nuclear-tipped missiles. INS Arihant, the first advanced technology vessel, is also the dream come true of the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who had issued order to Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and the DRDO to build one, in the wake of India’s search for
-self-sufficiency in the defence sector.

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