Veteran nuclear scientist Sekhar Basu dies of COVID-19

Basu had pioneered the highly complex reactor for India's first nuclear-powered submarine INS Arihant

Sekhar Basu
Dr Sekhar Basu was the former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission | File Photo: Twitter

Veteran atomic scientist Dr Sekhar Basu succumbed to COVID-19 at a private hospital in Kolkata on Thursday (September 24). He breathed his last just three days after turning 68. “Dr Basu was suffering from COVID-19 and other kidney ailments. He died at 4.50 am,” a health department official told PTI.

Basu, a mechanical engineer who was the former chairman of Atomic Energy Commission, is revered for his contributions to the country’s atomic energy programme. He was awarded Padma Shri in 2014. He had also pioneered the highly complex reactor for India’s first nuclear-powered submarine INS Arihant.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee mourned the demise of Dr Basu and extended her condolences to his family.

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“I join the atomic energy fraternity in grieving the passing away of Dr. Sekhar Basu, a renowned nuclear scientist who played a key role in establishing India as a lead country in nuclear science and engineering. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. Om Shanti!” the prime minister said in a tweet.

“Grieved to hear about the passing away of veteran nuclear scientist and former Atomic Energy Commission chairman, Dr Sekhar Basu. My condolences to his family and colleagues,” tweeted Chief Minister Banerjee.

Describing Dr Basu’s death as an “untimely loss”, eminent physicist and Padma Bhushan-recipient Bikash Sinha said “the country lost a wonderful engineer and a gentleman”.

“I’d say he left us at a relatively young age. He still had a lot more to contribute. He was an ingenious engineer who worked very hard for our nuclear programme. Basu did a brilliant job for the nuclear-powered submarine. We are going to miss a good man,” said Sinha, 75, former director of Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics and Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre.

Born on September 20, 1952, Dr Basu completed his schooling from the city’s Ballygunge Government School and then graduated in mechanical engineering from Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute (VJTI), University of Mumbai, in 1974.

After completing a year’s training in nuclear science and engineering at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) School, he joined its Reactor Engineering Division in 1975. He had also worked as the project director of the Nuclear Submarine Programme at BARC, before taking over as its director in 2012.

Dr Basu was also the brain behind designing, construction and operation of nuclear recycle plants at Tarapur and Kalpakkam. He played a key role in the development of the Indian Neutrino Observatory at Tamil Nadu. The atomic scientist was conferred the Indian Nuclear Society Award in 2002.

(With inputs from agencies)

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