New Delhi — What India claims is the world’s largest nuclear research reactor, reportedly capable of producing weapons grade plutonium, began operating today authorities announced.

The reactor, Dhruva, went “critical” early Thursday, India’s Atomic Energy Department said in a statement. This is a condition in which a chain nuclear reaction 1s maintained at a constant named rate before production starts. At 100 megawatts, Dhruva, fueled by natural uranium, is the largest research reactor in the world said Dr. Raja Ramanna, head of India’s Atomic Programme.

The Press Trust of India said the plutonium would not be subject to regulations of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) because it was indigenously produced. Announcing the successful commissioning of the Dhruva (stable) nuclear research reactor, Dr. Raja Ramanna said, “This is a landmark in the country’s atomic energy programme.” The reactor, located at the sprawling Bhabha Atomic Research Center outside Bombay was designed and built by Indian nuclear engineers; it is not open to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency because India has declined to sign the 1958 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Dr, Ramanna made no direct mention of the weapons grade plutonium that Dhruva reportedly would produce. But he said it would gradually replace the device that produced the plutonium for India’s first atomic explosion in May 1974. That device was the Canadian built reactor at Bhabha.

Dhruva’s capability to produce weapons grade by Indian nuclear sources and the Vienna based International Atomic Energy Agency.

The commissioning of the reactor came amid strident demands by national lawmakers that India revise its professedly peaceful nuclear policy and manufacture atomic arms to meet the nuclear threat from neighboring Pakistan.

Article extracted from this publication >>  August 16, 1985