Sub-par power yield leaves Arihant drifting in deep sea of delay

Published: 18th October 2016 11:24 PM  |   Last Updated: 14th September 2017 04:32 PM   |  A+A-

NEW DELHI: The country’s first indigenously developed nuclear submarine Arihant will soon be unveiled after years of secrecy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit Visakhapatnam for its formal commissioning and dedicate it to the nation at the Eastern Naval Command, according to a top government official.

But before its operational deployment, its developers are struggling to fix a critical issue in its pressurised water reactor, which has not been able to generate adequate power for the submarine’s functioning.

According to sources, the nuclear-powered submarine was inducted into the fleet a few days back, but its commissioning is yet to happen before it’s formally put on operational deployment in the deep sea.

Explaining further, an official said a warship requires a flag and pennant number before being commissioned into service, while induction is only its entry into the service.

“There will soon be an opportunity to talk about Arihant,” vice admiral G S Pabby said while indicating a formal announcement is to be made soon.

The 6,000-tonne Arihant is armed with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles and will be the third leg of the ‘triad’ of land, air and sea-launched nuclear weapons envisaged by India’s nuclear doctrine of 1998. In 2013, the nuclear reactor of the submarine went ‘critical’ and from December 2014 onwards, the sea trials began, which included the test firing of K-series of missiles.

But since then, its 83 MW pressurised light-water reactor at its core, developed with extensive assistance from the Russia, has been facing multiple technical glitches.

A top official said its pressurised water reactor has not been synchronised with other vital systems. And because of it, the reactor has not been able to generate the ‘required’ power to operate the submarine.

“Synchronization of its pressurised water reactor to other key systems was a tricky job. Its configuration to generate 83 MW nuclear energy has not been successfully done, resulting in repeated delays in its operational deployment,” said
a top defence source.

A joint team of Russian and Indian scientists has been actively working round-the-clock to fix the critical issue.

Arihant, powered by an 83-MW pressurised water reactor with enriched uranium fuel, was launched symbolically into water on July 26, 2009, by then PM Manmohan Singh’s wife Gursharan Kaur. And since then, it is missing its deadline, as the Navy wanted the submarine to be ready for deterrent patrol by 2014, which means it should be equipped with nuclear weapons. But, sources also claimed that deterrent patrol will be a further step and will take some months to actually deploy.

Some months back, Arihant was integrated with the K-15 submarine-launched ballistic missile, which has a range of 750-km and the K-4 that has aa range of up to 3,500-km.

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