Nuclear Energy

Pokhran-II nuclear tests


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NSG, NPT, Op Smiling Buddha

Mains level : India's nuclear policy

Yesterday, May 11 was celebrated as the National Technology Day. It marks the day on which India successfully test-fired its first nuclear bombs in 1998.

Practice question for mains

Q. India’s nuclear policy of ‘No First Use’ needs a revamp. Examine.

India and nuclear weapons

  • India is currently among eight countries in the world that have a publicly known nuclear weapons program.
  • At the time of our independence, leaders were opposed to fully embracing nuclear weapons.
  • Just two years before in 1945, the world had witnessed the horrific nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  • Mahatma Gandhi called the use of nuclear weapons morally unacceptable.

Why India did equip itself with nuclear arms?

  • Then PM Jawaharlal Nehru was sceptical but kept the door open for future consideration.
  • This future beckoned early, as India’s defeat in the 1962 Sino-Indian War gave rise to legitimate fears about national security.
  • Then in 1974, India conducted its first nuclear test, codenamed “Smiling Buddha”, at Pokhran in Rajasthan.
  • Then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi called the test a peaceful nuclear explosion.
  • India demonstrated to the world that the country could defend itself in an extreme situation and chose not to immediately weaponize the nuclear device it tested at Pokhran.

 The Pokhran II tests

  • India’s fence-sitting finally ended when it detonated another device in 1998, again at Pokhran.
  • Assigned the code name Operation Shakti, the mission was initiated on May 11, 1998.
  • The tests consisted of 5 detonations, the first being a fusion bomb while the remaining four were fission bombs.
  • One fusion and two fission bombs were tested on May 11, and two more fission bombs on May 13.
  • With the tests, India achieved its objective of building fission and thermonuclear weapons with yields up to 200 kilotons.


  • After Pokhran-II, Vajpayee had declared India a nuclear state — then the sixth country in the world to join this league.
  • Unlike in 1974, India had this time chosen to actively develop its nuclear capabilities, and the tests followed economic sanctions by the United States and Japan. The sanctions were later lifted.

Back2Basics: India’s nuclear programme

  • India started its own nuclear programme in 1944 when Homi Jehangir Bhabha founded the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.
  • Physicist Raja Ramanna played an essential role in nuclear weapons technology research; he expanded and supervised scientific research on nuclear weapons and was the first directing officer of the small team of scientists that supervised and carried out the test.
  • After independence, PM Nehru authorised the development of a nuclear programme headed by Homi Bhabha.
  • The Atomic Energy Act of 1948 focused on peaceful development.
  • India was heavily involved in the development of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but ultimately opted not to sign it.
  • In 1954, two important infrastructure projects were commissioned. The first established Trombay Atomic Energy Establishment at Mumbai (Bombay). The other created a governmental secretariat, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), of which Bhabha was the first secretary.

Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)

  • The NSG is a multilateral export control regime and a group of nuclear supplier countries that seek to prevent nuclear proliferation by controlling the export of materials, equipment and technology that can be used to manufacture nuclear weapons.
  • The NSG was founded in response to the Indian nuclear test in May 1974 and first met in November 1975.
  • It was solely aimed to deny advanced technology, and isolate and contain India.

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