The Union government’s move to allow privatisation in the atomic energy sector is a move whose time has come. With an increasing consumer demand for products from the atomic energy sector, state-run corporations, namely the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, cannot alone cater.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the decision to allow private public partnerships in the atomic energy sector during her address yesterday. At first, the announcement seemed shocking. Atomic energy is one of the strategic sectors of the country, and is kept cloaked in secrecy.
However, the sectors being opened up—nuclear isotopes for therapeutic purposes, and irradiation for food security and sterilisation—are already out in the private sector, although these are small units with limited capacity and scope. BARC had, in 2002, set up the Krushi Utpadan Sanrakshan Kendra (KRUSHAK) at Lasalgaon in Maharashtra, known for its onion and garlic production. KRUSHAK focuses on low-dose irradiation of crops to prevent them from pest attacks.
Taking off from this venture, there are a few private enterprises who are focusing on food irradiation technology in the area, such as Agrosurg Irradiators.