Radiochemistry in India essentially blossomed under the auspices of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) for the last 55 years or so. Major activities in this area are centred at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai (BARC) and Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam (IGCAR). Though there were several centers of excellence which were established by renowned radiochemists during the 1960s at the academic institutions in different parts of the country and nurtured by their close associates during the eighties and nineties, their glamour did not last long and only very few have sustained the challenges presented by social and technological upheaval of last five decades. Board of Research in Nuclear Sciences (BRNS), an organ of DAE has been in the forefront for promotion of education and research in nuclear sciences at academic institutions. It sponsors symposia in Nuclear and Radiochemistry (NUCAR), Nuclear Analytical Chemistry (NAC) and Applications of Radioisotopes in Chemistry, Environment and Biology (ARCEB) which are organized periodically to provide a platform for interaction of the radiochemists within and outside DAE. A professional body, viz. Indian Association of Nuclear Chemists and Allied Scientists (IANCAS), formed in early eighties at BARC, Mumbai has been spearheading the campaign to popularize the subject of radiochemistry in schools and colleges through workshops and publishing monographs and thematic bulletins regularly in the area of interest to the radiochemists.
During the last five decades, radiochemistry programme at BARC has centered around attaining excellence in basic research utilizing radiations and radioisotopes to unravel various nuclear and chemical phenomena, related to actinides and fission products. This programme encompassed a number of research and development areas such as nuclear fission, nuclear reactions, nuclear probes for materials study, nuclear and chemical properties of actinides, actinide spectroscopy, separation science of actinides, thermodynamics and characterization of fuels, post irradiation examination, chemical and non destructive assay techniques for nuclear materials. Production and application of radioisotopes in societal benefit activities in agriculture, industry and health science was another facet of the radiochemistry programme at BARC. The radiochemistry programme at IGCAR has been focused on chemistry of fast reactor and fuel cycle related materials such as sodium and boron, in addition to the chemistry of actinides, fission products and pyrochemical studies related to processing of spent fuels.
Publication of about 2000 peer reviewed papers in international journals of repute and award of Ph.D. degrees to more than 150 scientists is an evidence of the front line research activities pursued under this programme. All along the 55 years, sustained efforts were made to meet the growing challenges of closed nuclear fuel cycle (both thermal as well as fast). After five decades of continuous research and development perhaps one can feel satisfied that the programme could fulfil not only the dreams of its founders but is also ready to take on the future challenges related to the second and third stage of Indian nuclear power programme.