India developing new centrifuges and increasing enrichment capacity

In an October 2008 speech honoring Homi Bhabha the founder of India's nuclear program, Srikumar Banerjee, the Director of India's Bhabha Atomic Research Center, announced that:

"Great strides have been made in development of advanced gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment program. The latest fourth generation design, with output 10 times the early design, has been successfully developed and an experimental cascade is in operation at BARC. These would soon be ready for induction at RMP. Third generation design, with 5 times output of early designs, are presently being inducted at RMP."

These centrifuge generations may be similar to early generation Urenco machines and similar machines developed in Pakistan.

Original machines

Pakistan centrifuges


Separative power

Possible Indian centrifuges




2-3 SWU/year




Maraging Steel

5-6 SWU/year




Maraging Steel

12 SWU/year




Maraging Steel

21 SWU/year


(For details see A. Glaser, Characteristics of the Gas Centrifuge for Uranium Enrichment and Their Relevance for Nuclear Weapon ProliferationGlobal Fissile Material Report 2008.)

Banerjee also revealed in his 2008 address that India has been working on "carbon fibre composite tubes for high speed rotor system," and that these had "achieved a surface speed of 600 m/sec." Banerjee said that "These rotor systems are presently undergoing various trials."

A carbon fibre rotor would be consistent with a fifth generation Urenco machine, the TC-11, which has a speed of 600 m/s. A later variant of this machine, the TC-12, has a speed of 620 m/s and a separative power of 40 SWU/year.

Speaking on the same occasion in October 2009, Srikumar Banerjee said that: "In the uranium enrichment programme, we have succeeded in improving the separating work' unit of gas centrifuges manifold. The production capacity has also been substantially enhanced to meet the requirement."

India's enrichment program dates to the 1970s. It produces highly enriched uranium for its nuclear submarine reactor program and may also produce highly enriched uranium for India's thermonuclear weapons. India launched its first nuclear submarine in July 2009, and has two under construction, and plans a fleet of 3-5 submarines. For details see Global Fissile Material Report 2009. For an early analysis of enrichment capacity required to support the submarine program, see M.V. Ramana, An Estimate of India's Uranium Enrichment Capacity.

Analysis of recent satellite imagery by ISIS suggests India may be further expanding its enrichment capacity at its Rare Materials Plant (RMP) in Rattehalli, Mysore (Karnataka), possibly by adding new enrichment halls.

Alexander Glaser, Zia Mian and M.V. Ramana