India’s Three Stage Nuclear Power Program - Process, Challenges

India’s 3 stage Nuclear Power Program was conceived soon after Independence to meet the security and energy demands of Independent India. India’s Uranium reserves constituted a very small amount, but India has a very huge amount of thorium reserves. Hence to attain independence in the energy domain it was conceived to develop a 3 stage nuclear power program utilising the abundant thorium reserves.

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When was India’s Three-stage Nuclear Power Program devised?

India’s 3 stage Nuclear Power Program was devised in 1954.

Who devised India’s Three Stage Nuclear Power Program?

Homi J Bhabha, the father of India’s Nuclear program, devised India’s Three Stage Nuclear Power Program.

What was the objective behind formulating the Three Stages Nuclear Power Program?

  1. India has only 2% of World’s Uranium reserves, on the other hand, India has 25% of the World’s Thorium reserves.
  2. Since India was not part of some of the International Nuclear treaties, India was prevented from taking part in international trade in the Nuclear field.
  3. India has a huge population and growing economy, to meet the energy demands India had to rely heavily on imports of coal, and crude oil.
  4. Hence India had to devise methodologies to be self-sufficient in meeting energy demands arising due to a burgeoning population and economy; the 3 stage Nuclear Power Program was one of the answers to it.

How is energy produced using Three Stages of the Nuclear Power Program?

India has approximately 400 thousand tonnes of thorium reserves, close to 25% of Global Thorium reserves. Thorium is not a fissile material, but it can be converted into Uranium – 233, which can then undergo fission to produce energy.

What are the three different stages in the Nuclear Power Program?

The nuclear reactors used in different stages are different and the byproducts of one stage will be used in succeeding stages.

Below table gives details on different stages and the process involved in those stages

Stages Process
Stage 1
  1. Use natural Uranium to fuel a Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR).
  2. The byproduct, Plutonium (Pu) – 239 is used in Stage 2.
Stage 2
  1. Develop Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR) to produce excess, Pu-239, which will then lead to the conversion of Thorium (Th – 232) to fissile Uranium U-233.
Stage 3
  1. Develop Breeder Reactors, these are Thorium-based Nuclear reactors.

Three Stages of the Nuclear Power Program – Challenges

  1. Technical challenges involved in building Fast Breeder Reactors.
  2. Technical challenges involved in building Thorium based Reactors.

Location of Nuclear Reactors in India

The below table gives a list of the locations of nuclear reactors in India

State Location
Rajasthan Rawatbhata
Tamil Nadu Kudankulam


Gujarat Kakrapar
Uttar Pradesh Narora
Karnataka Kaiga
Maharashtra Tarapur

Is it safe to build Nuclear Power Plants in India?

It is absolutely safe to build the Nuclear Power plants, as they have a very high safety record. Barring three accidents, Three Mile Island (TMI) in the USA, Chernobyl in Russia, and Fukushima in Japan, there have been no accidents.

  1. All the safety features worked in the TMI case and there was no leakage of radiation.
  2. In Russia, the accident was due to human error and for not following safety protocols.
  3. Moreover, Graphite was used as a moderator in the Chernobyl reactor. Graphite is a form of carbon and its combustible property led to an explosion in the reactor core. Such a scenario is ruled out in Indian reactors as the core is cooled and moderated by heavy water reactors.
  4. Fukushima, Japan kind of scenario is ruled out as Indian reactors are not in a Geologically high seismic zone, they are built at a height which cannot be affected by any Tsunami waves.

Suggestions for Nuclear Power Plants in India

To ensure the safety and security of using nuclear power there is a need to:

  • Maintain continued effective safety regulation
  • Ensure the maintenance of the skills base
  • Maintain and reinforce international non-proliferation arrangements.
  • Foster progress on facilities for waste disposal and management must be given serious consideration.

Also, go through the list of Nuclear Power Plants in India on the linked page.

India’s Three Stage Nuclear Power Program – UPSC Notes:- Download PDF Here

Frequently Asked Questions about India’s three-stage nuclear power program


Who formulated India’s three-stage nuclear program?

India’s three-stage nuclear power programme was formulated by Homi Bhabha and Jawaharlal Nehru in the 1950s to secure the country’s long term energy independence, through the use of uranium and thorium reserves found in the monazite sands of coastal regions of South India.

What was the focus of the program?

The ultimate focus of the programme is on enabling the thorium reserves of India to be utilised in meeting the country’s energy requirements. Thorium is particularly attractive for India, as it has only around 1–2% of the global uranium reserves, but one of the largest shares of global thorium reserves at about 25% of the world’s known thorium reserves.

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Related Links

UPSC FAQ Nuclear Reactors: Components and Types and Reactors in India
Nuclear Fuel Cycle Nuclear Energy-Related Developments, Uses and Facts
Thermal Power Plants in India UPSC Age Limit
Indo – US Civil Nuclear Deal Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) – Objectives, Members, India
Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) – Objectives, Participant Countries and Significance Nuclear Policies of India
Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) United Nations – Atomic Energy Commission
Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) Australia Group – Objectives, Participants And India
Wassenaar Arrangement – Objectives, Members  Nuclear Arms Control 
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – Functions and Mandate APSARA (India’s First Nuclear Research Reactor)
Birth of Homi J Bhabha – [October 30, 1909] “Smiling Buddha” – Pokhran I Nuclear Test [May 18, 1974]
Pokhran II – Five Nuclear Bomb Test Explosions India’s Nuclear Doctrine: Policy, Missiles and Facts


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