Nuclear Reactor of INS Arihant achieved Criticality when the Boat was in the Sea

Arihant, India's indigenously built submarine went critical. With this India entered the club of Blue water navy (Russia, US, UK, China and France).

Created On: Aug 11, 2013 15:08 ISTModified On: Aug 11, 2013 16:54 IST

Nuclear Reactor of India’s indigenous nuclear-powered submarine, Arihant went critical on 10 August 2013 at 1.20 a.m. With this success, India became a member of the exclusive club of countries that have built their own nuclear powered submarines along with Russia, US, UK, China and France.

The reactor of Arihant achieved criticality, when the boat was in the sea. Criticality is a technical term that is used to describe the first step, towards self-sustaining nuclear reaction for stable production of power.

About Arihant

• Arihant means destroyer of enemies in Sanskrit is an Indian submarine, which is 111 meter long, 11 broad and 15 meter tall.
• Arihant has won India a status of the nation that has blue water navy, who can travel far and wide into the sea after the nuclear reactor fitted to it went critical
• It has been engineered for being propelled by a Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR), which uses enriched uranium as fuel and generate 80 MW energy.

A Pressurized Water Power Reactor that is a similar to that if the one used in Arihant reactor is being used to train the naval officers at Kalpakkam.  Earlier India trained the naval officers with a nuclear powered submarine Chakra from 1988 to 1991 that was leased from Russia.  

Challenges Faced  by Scientists in Creation of the  nuclear-powered submarine

• As per the scientists, who worked on the project, the biggest challenge for them was to fit the reactor into the submarine by making it compact enough, as its necessary to maintain the stability of the reactor at the time, when the submarine accelerates into in the depths of the ocean.

K-15 underwater fired missiles with nuclear warheads will be fitted with the submarine. each missile will be 10 meter long and weigh 6.3 tonnes. These missiles can hit the targets at a distance of 700 kilometers when the submarine is 20 kilometers under the water.

Construction of Arihant, the nuclear-powered submarine of India (details from the side of head to tail)

• The head of the submarine is fitted with a SONAR (Sound Navigation and Ranging), it is a technique that uses sound propagation to navigate, communicate and detect objects under and above water. It is used as a means of acoustic location.
• Just after the SONAR, a living room has been created followed by a space that will held the torpedoes and land attack missiles, followed by a Control Room, a Gallery Kitchen, Missile Tubes (this will act as a combat management system), a Periscope, Nuclear Reactor, Turbine, Electric Motor and Propeller shaft.

History behind the creation of the Nuclear Submarine

• For the first time, the former Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi in 1970 asked DRDO, BARC and others to create a Nuclear Submarine. But the first hush-hush Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) of India began in 1990s.
• On 26 July 2009, India launched its first ATV, INS Arihant in the water
• In 2012 India took on lease nuclear powered INS Chakra from Russia for 10 years. Due to international non-proliferation treaty, it didn't had nuclear tipped missiles

With the success of the technical aspects, the Arihant will be sent for an extensive sea-based acceptance trials into the open waters. In next 18 months, the trials will include firing of K-15 missiles to a range of 700 kilometer. Indian DRDO has also designed a special group of under-water missiles named K-4 that can hit the targets at a distance of 3000 kilometers.


A nuclear powered submarine can operate deep inside the sea for more than a month, whereas, the problem with the submarines powered with fuel like electricity or diesel can last for few days deep into the water. The electricity or diesel based submarines need to surface itself for recharging the batteries and to get oxygen.

To shore up its second strike capability, India is developing three more nuclear-powered submarines at Vizag, Visakhapatnam. Brazil is a country that is working on the naval nuclear propulsion technology. The nuclear powered submarine, Arihant came up after making a 25 years long effort in the technically challenging area.

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