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‘A man of true courage in face of crisis’

Former Atomic Energy Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar led a cross-section of nuclear scientists,corporate leaders and diplomats in paying tribute to former AEC chairman Homi Nusserwanji Sethna.

Written by Kavitha Iyer | Mumbai |
September 7, 2010 1:26:54 am

Former Atomic Energy Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar led a cross-section of nuclear scientists,corporate leaders and diplomats in paying tribute to former AEC chairman Homi Nusserwanji Sethna,who died on Sunday night,saying he was a “man of true courage in the face of crisis”.

Sethna,87,died in Mumbai following a prolonged illness. It was during his tenure as AEC chairman that India’s first peaceful nuclear test was conducted in Pokharan in 1974.

Having been associated with the very first step towards exploitation of nuclear material in India in 1949 — Sethna was responsible for setting up the Rare Earths Plant in Alwaye,Kerala. In 1959,he joined the Atomic Energy Establishment in Trombay,now known as the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre,and was responsible for designing and building the plutonium plant in Trombay.

“He was a rare leader,one who thought far ahead. Name any important thing in Indian nuclear science and he has had a role to play. You need plutonium for fast reactors and for the strategic programme,and it was Sethna who built India’s first plutonium plant in Trombay,” Kakodkar said.

Another former AEC chairman P K Iyengar remembered Sethna as having a “pragmatic approach to our capabilities” especially during the trying phase between 1970 and 1985. “Sanctions had been applied,collaborations stopped,the French,Canadians and Americans had walked out. But projects that had been undertaken had to be completed,” said Iyengar.

According to former Indian Ambassador to the US,Ronen Sen,who played a key role in the negotiations of the India-US Civil Nuclear deal,Sethna’s sometimes gruff demeanour “concealed a warm and caring heart”.

Sethna’s career began as a trainee at ICI,Manchester,under the Tata-ICI scheme and after his retirement from the government,he went on to serve as the chairman of Tata Power. Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata said Sethna had played an important role in the development of the nation’s nuclear capability.

Sethna’s last rites will be held on Tuesday.

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