India Nuclear Milestones: 1945-2009

1945: The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research Mumbai is inaugurated.

1948: The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) is established under the direction of Dr. Homi J. Bhabha.

1954: The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) is created.

1956: India’s one MWt Apsara research reactor attains criticality.

1957: India establishes the Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay, which will be renamed the Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC) in 1967.

1959: The Uranium Metal Plant at Trombay begins production.

1960: The heavy water forty MWt CIRUS reactor, supplied by Canada and run with U.S.-supplied heavy water, attains criticality and begins making weapons-grade plutonium.

1961: India’s 0.1 kW Zerlina research reactor attains criticality only to be decommissioned in 1983.

1962: Heavy water production begins at German-built Nangal plant. Seven more production plants are built by 1991.

1963: The United States and India sign an accord stipulating that the United States will supply enriched fuel to India’s Tarapur nuclear power plant.

1964: Extraction of plutonium from CIRUS spent fuel begins at Trombay.

1968: India refuses to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

1969: India’s 160 MWe Tarapur-1 and Tarapur-2 are connected to the grid.

1971: India establishes the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), under the DAE.

1972: The Canadian-built 100 MWe Rajasthan-1 nuclear power reactor becomes operational, serving as the model for later unsafeguarded reactors. Another Rajasthan unit will become operational in 1980 and two units in 2000.

1974: India conducts an underground nuclear explosion at Pokhran, Rajasthan.

1982: France agrees to take over supply of approximately 50,000 SWU per year of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to India’s General Electric-built Tarapur reactors, following the cessation of U.S. fuel supplies.

November 1982: BARC’s Power Reactor Fuel Reprocessing Plant at Tarapur is commissioned.

1982-87: India smuggles, via a German broker, heavy water from the USSR, China and Norway and uses the heavy water in reactors to make plutonium for a nuclear arsenal.

February 1983: The periodical Nuclear Fuel reports that India began reprocessing commercial spent fuel from its Rajasthan-1 reactor about two months prior. Reprocessing is conducted at India’s 100 metric ton per year capacity Tarapur reprocessing facility, under the supervision of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors.

May 1983: In response to a story in the Hindustan Times alleging that India has received a nuclear consignment from the Soviet Union, an Indian foreign ministry spokesperson admits that the Soviet Union has supplied 131 tons of heavy water to the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS) out of the total of 256 tons promised under a September 1976 agreement.

July 1983: India’s 170 MWe Madras-1 becomes operational. The design is a copy of the Canadian-supplied Rajasthan-1. A second Madras unit will become operational in 1985.

1983-1984: The Norwegian firm Norsk Data reportedly sold six computers of the ND 100 and ND 500 type to BARC, according to the Foreign Ministry of Norway.

1984: West German firm Degussa re-exports to India 95 kg of U.S.-origin beryllium, usable as a neutron reflector in fission bombs, and is later fined $800,000 by U.S.

August 1985: The heavy water 100 MWt Dhruva reactor attains criticality and starts producing weapons-grade plutonium.

October 1985: India’s forty MWt Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) attains criticality.

March 1986: Romania reportedly illegally re-exports 12.5 metric tons of Norsk Hydro AS-produced heavy water to India, according to investigations conducted by Norwegian police in Bucharest.

April 1986: The Swedish periodical Dagens Nyheter reports that India was among several countries that purchased flash x-ray aggregates from Sweden between 1977 and 1984. This equipment has applications in high-speed photography of nuclear explosions.

July 1986: Nuclear Power Board chairman, Malur Srinivasan, reports that India is currently reprocessing spent fuel at Tarapur from its indigenously-built, domestic uranium-fuelled Madras Atomic Power Station. In addition to providing India with a source of unsafeguarded plutonium, Srinivasan adds that the output will be used to fuel the FBTR at Kalpakkam.

January 1987: India’s AEC chairman, Dr. Raja Ramanna, says that India can enrich uranium to any desired level and that BARC has already been enriching uranium on a pilot scale. BARC Director, Dr. P. K. Iyengar notes that India is also developing laser enrichment technologies.

1988: Pakistan and India agree to exchange lists of nuclear installations as part of an agreement not to attack each others’ nuclear facilities. The first exchange occurs in January 1992.

1988: Russia agrees to build two 1,000 MW (VVER-1000) reactors at Kudankulam, India. Construction reportedly begins in March 2002.

March 1989: Director of U.S. Central Intelligence, William H. Webster, says that there are “indicators” that India is building a thermonuclear weapon. Among the signs are activities at India’s BARC involving purification and the separation of lithium-6 isotopes, used to produce tritium.

July 1989: India’s 220 MWe pressurized heavy water Narora-1 reactor becomes operational. The second unit will become operational in 1992.

October 1990: According to India’s AEC Chairman, the design throughput of India’s reprocessing facility under construction at Kalpakkam has nearly doubled to 200 metric tons per year. The 100-metric ton per year Prefre reprocessing plant at Tarapur has undergone a fifty metric ton increase in reprocessing capability.

December 1990: U.S. President George Bush eases export restrictions on supercomputer exports to Brazil, India and China.

1991: The Indian Navy reportedly begins work on a nuclear-powered submarine project, shortly after returning a Charlie I-type SSGN leased from the Soviet Union.

November 1991: India withdraws an offer to sell a ten MW nuclear research reactor to Iran, following pressure from the United States.

March 1992: Reportedly, AEC Chairman P.K. Iyengar claimsthat a second gas centrifuge uranium enrichment facility is operational near a site for rare earths material production. Official sources suggest that the facility has several hundred operating centrifuges made of domestically-produced maraging steel.

November 1992: India’s 220 MWe Kakrapar-1 pressurized heavy water reactor becomes operational. The second unit will follow suit in 1995. The U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency announces that it is the first Indian reactor to use thorium in its core and is not under IAEA safeguards.

December 1992: India’s AEC has confirmed the existence of approximately 10,000 tons of uranium ore in the West Khasi Hills of Meghalaya, possibly the largest reserve in India after Jaduguda.

June 1994: India has reportedly won its first commercial heavy water export deal, with the DAE supplying 100 tons of heavy water, under IAEA safeguards, for the Wolsung CANDU plants in South Korea.

January 1995: India receives its first consignment of LEU for the Tarapur nuclear plant from China. Indian officials say that the uranium will be converted into fuel assemblies along with a MOX fuel developed by DAE. France stopped supplying Tarapur in 1994, stipulating that India must first submit to IAEA full-scope safeguards before shipments resume.

1996: India cancels plans to test a nuclear weapon.

March 1996: India cold commissions the Kalpakkam Reprocessing Plant.

October 1996: The Chairman of the DAE announces that India and South Korea have signed a contract for the export to South Korea of 100 metric tons of heavy water to be conducted in 1998.

October 1996: India’s thirty kW, U-233 fuelled Kamini research reactor attains criticality. The reactor is reportedly located beneath a hot cell of the radio metallurgy laboratory where neutron radiography of irradiated fuel of the FBTR at Kalpakkam will be conducted.

1997: Prime Minister I. K. Gujral says India will not sign the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) or any other “discriminatory” nuclear agreement that would hamper India’s nuclear program.

January 1998: Scientists at BARC claim they have developed a low cost method of extracting tritium from heavy water used in nuclear power reactors.

May 1998: India conducts two rounds of nuclear weapon tests. After the first, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee announces that “a fission device, a low-yield device and a thermonuclear device” had been successfully tested in the Pokhran desert. Two days later the government explodes two more sub-kiloton nuclear tests at the same testing range. The five underground tests range in yield from less than one kiloton to an estimated 45 kilotons.

May 1998: President Clinton imposes economic sanctions on India after it refuses American demands to disavow future testing or deployment of nuclear weapons.

May 1998: Russia refuses to join other countries in punishing India for its nuclear tests.

May 1998: In response to India’s nuclear tests, the World Bank postpones the approval of $865 million in loans to India.

June 1998: “Well-placed Indian official sources,” reportedly claim that since the mid 1970s India’s DAE and BARC prepared about 25 spherical plutonium metal bomb cores from the spent fuel of two reactors.

November 1998: Analysts at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory have reportedly concluded that one of India’s May nuclear explosions, described by India as a successful thermonuclear test, failed to ignite its secondary stage as planned. As a result, one unnamed U.S. official states that India’s DAE “is under intense pressure to test again.”

November 1998: India introduces a resolution at the United Nations on nuclear de-alerting to reduce the potential for an accidental launch.

November 1998: The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Export Administration sanctions Indian governmental, parastatal, and private entities thought to be involved in nuclear or missile activities.

December 1998: Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee tells parliament that India’s nuclear doctrine will be centered on two elements: a small but credible deterrent, and a no-first-use policy.

February 1999: The United States ends its opposition to extending World Bank loans to India, allowing the approval of a $210 million energy project.

April 1999: Dr. A.J.P. Abdul Kalam, head of India’s Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) says that “the Agni II [intermediate-range ballistic missile] is designed to carry a nuclear warhead if required,” and claims that an Agni-class payload was tested during the underground nuclear tests in May 1998.

June 1999: Officials at DAE admit they are planning to build a new research-size reactor inside the BARC campus to increase its annual production of weapon-grade plutonium. Officials say the new reactor will be based on the existing CIRUS and Dhruva reactors and predict that it will be operational by 2010.

August 1999: The chairman of the AEC claims that India can manufacture nuclear weapons of “any type of size” based on information obtained during last year’s nuclear tests.

December 1999: India’s 220 MWe Kaiga-2 becomes operational. Kaiga-1 will become operational the following year.

December 1999: The Assistant Secretary for Export Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce announces the removal of 51 organizations from the list of 200 Indian entities sanctioned in November 1998.

June 2000: One of India’s leading nuclear scientists, retired DAE head P. K. Iyengar, tells an Indian newspaper that India’s May 1998 thermonuclear bomb test wasted most of its fuel by burning “only partially, perhaps less than 10 percent” and that India needs to redesign and test the weapon again.

August 2000: Russia agrees to supply India’s Tarapur nuclear power plant with 58 metric tons of LEU.

March 2001: The Canadian government announces that it is lifting economic sanctions that were imposed on India in the wake of its May 1998 nuclear tests.

May 2001: Russian fuel fabricator MSZ Elektrostal has reportedly completed work on fuel assemblies and has shipped nuclear fuel to India’s Tarapur facility, despite objections by the United States and European members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

September 2001: U.S. President George W. Bush waives U.S. economic sanctions against India and Pakistan originally imposed as a penalty for their nuclear weapon tests conducted in 1998. The New York Times suggests that the United States undertook this measure to reward those nations assisting in the “war on terrorism.”

October 2001: Japan lifts the economic sanctions that it imposed on India and Pakistan in the wake of their May 1998 nuclear weapon tests. A Japanese government spokesperson explains that sanctions are being lifted because Japan “values India and Pakistan’s efforts to contribute to strengthening the international coalition against terrorism.”

November 2001: India’s BARC has developed a nuclear power plant for its ATV cruise missile submarine. Russian engineers and Indian scientists have begun installation and testing of the plant at IGCAR.

December 2001: Defense and Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy announces that in the past twelve months Russia’s Rosoboronexport transfered to India’s Navy a Russian Shchuka-B class nuclear power submarine, under a three-year lease.

December 2001: India and the United States resume military-to-military cooperation and revive the Defense Policy Group (DPG), which was suspended after India’s May 1998 nuclear tests.

November 2002: India and the United States establish the U.S.-India High Technology Cooperation Group to facilitate and promote bilateral high-technology trade, including trade in dual-use goods and technologies.

December 2002: The Chairman of the AEC in India, Dr. Anil Kakodkar, unveils a Rs100-crore program that focuses on the use of thorium as an alternative to uranium in nuclear energy generation.

January 2003: India establishes its Strategic Forces Command (SFC) and approves appointment of a Commander-in-Chief to manage its nuclear and strategic forces.

January 2003: India outlines its eight-point nuclear doctrine. The doctrine includes: 1) a no-first-use posture; 2) authorization of retaliatory attacks only through civilian political leadership under the Nuclear Command Authority; 3) building and maintaining of a credible minimum deterrent; 4) non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states; 5) the option to use nuclear weapons in retaliation to chemical and biological attacks; 6) continuance of strict export controls; 7) participation in negotiations of the FMCT; and 8) continued observance of its moratorium on nuclear testing.

April 2003: U.S. officials have reportedly confirmed that approximately six months prior, India’s DAE, BARC, and DRDO requested permission from Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to test three nuclear devices.

September 2004: As part of the India-United States Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) initiative, which began in January 2004, the U.S. Commerce Department announces removal of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) headquarters from the U.S. Entity List and the introduction of a “presumption of approval” for all dual-use items not controlled by the NSG, if going to the “balance of plant” portion of an Indian nuclear facility subject to international inspection.

October 2004: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh launches the commercial phase of India’s fast breeder reactor program with the initiation of construction on the 500 MW Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR).

December 2004: Alexander Yuryevich Rumyantsev, director of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency, states that Russia, because of its adherence to the NSG, will not continue to supply fuel for the Tarapur nuclear power plant, in spite of its provision of 50 metric tons of enriched uranium to the same plant in 2001. Rumyantsev comments that fuel provided in 2001 was for safety reasons, since “India at that time had no fuel.”

January 2005: Russia completes delivery of a 320 metric ton nuclear reactor, manufactured by the OAO Izhora Factories in St. Petersburg, Russia, for the first unit of the Kudankulam nuclear power project in Tamil Nadu.

March 2005: The United States agrees to sell F-16 aircraft, which can be used as delivery vehicles for nuclear weapons, to India and Pakistan.

April 2005: India participates for the first time at the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS) review meeting and ratifies the CNS.

May 2005: India passes the Weapons of Mass Destruction and Their Delivery Systems Bill, in response to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1540.

June 2005: A meeting between U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman and the deputy chairman of India’s Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, ushers in the formation of five working groups under the “India-U.S. Energy Dialogue.” The nuclear energy working group will be responsible for research exchanges between the U.S. Department of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission and their Indian counterparts, the DAE and the AERB (Atomic Energy Regulatory Board) on such topics as “fusion science and related fundamental research.”

June 2005: India’s Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sign a defense agreement entitled “New Framework for the U.S.-India Defense Relationship.” Areas of cooperation will include combating the spread of weapons of mass destruction, collaboration on missile defense, as well as defense strategy and intelligence exchanges.

June 2005: India’s 490 MWe Tarapur-4 pressurized heavy water reactor is connected to the grid.

July 2005: The United States and India release a joint statement during a visit by India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the White House. President George W. Bush pledges to work with Congress to adjust U.S. laws and with the international community to adjust international regimes to accommodate “full civil nuclear energy cooperation and trade” with India. The statement declares that as a “responsible state with advanced nuclear technology, India should acquire the same benefits and advantages as other such states.”

August 2005: India and Pakistan agree to set up a telephone hotline by September 2005 to reduce the risk of a nuclear accident. The head of the Indian delegation, Meera Shankar, also offers Pakistan a draft agreement “for undertaking measures to reduce the risks of accidental or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons under their respective control.” In a separate agreement the two parties agree to notify each other prior to tests of ballistic missiles, many of which are nuclear capable.

August 2005: Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office issues amended measures to its policy restrictions on India. The measures state that the United Kingdom will consider on a “case-by-case” basis license applications for items on the NSG Dual-Use List, departing from its March 2002 policy to deny all such exports. The United Kingdom will also use the same method to evaluate all applications to export licensable items, including those licensable under WMD export control, and will encourage contacts between UK nuclear scientists, academics, and those within the nuclear industry with their Indian counterparts.

August 2005: As part of the reciprocal steps to complete the U.S. and Indian NSSP, the U.S. Department of Commerce removes six Indian entities from the Entity List. Removed DAE facilities include Tarapur (TAPS 1 and 2), Rajasthan (RAPS 1 and 2), and Kudankulam (1 and 2), two of which are under IAEA safeguards and one of which is to be placed under safeguards after completion. The other three entities are ISRO subordinates and include ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network, ISRO Inertial Systems Unit, Thiruvananthapuram, and Space Applications Center, Ahmadabad. The order also eliminates export and re-export license requirements on items controlled unilaterally by the United States for nuclear nonproliferation reasons.

September 2005: India and France issue a joint statement under which France acknowledges “the need for full international civilian nuclear cooperation with India,” pledging to “work towards this objective by working with other countries and the NSG and by deepening bilateral cooperation.”

September 2005: Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew meets with Indian External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh and the two agree on measures including Canada’s permission for the supply of nuclear-related dual-use items to Indian civilian nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, in accordance with NSG guidelines, and the development of peaceful uses of nuclear energy through bilateral and international forums.

December 2006: U.S. President George W. Bush signs the United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act, a key step in enabling the United States to share civilian nuclear technology with India.

February 2007: India and Pakistan sign an agreement on “Reducing the Risk from Accidents Relating to Nuclear Weapons” that requires both countries to immediately notify each other of any nuclear weapon-related accident that could create cross-border radioactive fallout risk or an outbreak of nuclear war.

August 2008: The IAEA Board of Governors approves the Agreement for the Application of Safeguards to Civilian Nuclear Facilities between India and the IAEA.

September 2008: The NSG adopts a policy to transfer trigger list and nuclear-related dual-use items and related technology to IAEA safeguarded Indian civilian nuclear facilities.

October 2008: U.S. President George W. Bush signs into law the United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Nonproliferation Enhancement Act. This brings the U.S.-India 123 Agreement into force, which grants India advance consent to reprocessing in a designated safeguarded facility and provides fuel assurances.

November 2008: The United Kingdom revises its Indian nuclear-related export policy and will evaluate license applications for items on the NSG trigger and dual-use lists destined for IAEA-safeguarded civil nuclear facilities in India on a case-by-case basis.

December 2008: India and Russia agree to cooperate in the construction of four nuclear power units at Kudankulam. A Russian diplomatic source reportedly claims the four new reactors may be VVER-1200s, capable of generating 1,170 MW each. The official also claims that Russia has agreed to supply India with six additional reactors.

December 2008: France’s AREVA signs an agreement with India’s DAE to supply 300 tons of uranium to Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL). The first consignment of sixty tons of uranium ore concentrate reportedly arrives in April 2009 and will be used in pressurized heavy water reactors.

January 2009: According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India has approximately sixty to seventy nuclear warheads, but its nuclear stockpile is thought to be only partially deployed.

January 2009: India and Kazakhstan sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) under which Kazakhstan will reportedly receive Indian-made nuclear reactors and supply India with 2,000 tons of uranium.

February 2009: India’s NPCIL signs a MoU with France’s AREVA to set up two to six EPR reactors (advanced pressurized water reactors) at Jaitapur.

February 2009: Russia’s TVEL and India’s DAE sign a long-term contract for TVEL to supply India with 2,000 metric tons of uranium pellets. Thirty tons of pellets are reportedly delivered to the Nuclear Fuel Complex at Hyderabad in April 2009.

May 2009: The Agreement for the Application of Safeguards to Civilian Nuclear Facilities between India and the IAEA enters into force.

May 2009: India signs the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, which allows for the application of strengthened safeguards.

July 2009: India launches the INS Arihant, its first nuclear-powered submarine, which will reportedly be capable of launching nuclear weapons.

August 2009: India and Namibia sign an Agreement on Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy that reportedly includes the sale of uranium to India.

October 2009: The IAEA receives written notification of fourteen nuclear-related facilities that India will put under safeguards: the Uranium Oxide Plant, Ceramic Fuel Fabrication Plant, Enriched Uranium Oxide Plant, Enriched Fuel Fabrication Plant and Gadolinia Facility at the Nuclear Fuel Complex in Hyderabad; TAPS 1 & 2 at Tarapur; RAPS 1, 2, 5 and 6 at Rajasthan; and KK 1 & 2 at Kundankulam.

October 2009: India designates the following sites for setting up light water power reactors: Jaitapur, in cooperation with France; Kudankulum and Haripur, in cooperation with Russia; and Chhayamithi Virdi and Kovvada, in cooperation with the United States.

November 2009: India and the European Union sign an agreement for collaborative research on fusion energy.

November 2009: Canada and India conclude negotiations on a nuclear cooperation agreement that would allow Canadian firms to trade in nuclear-related items with India.