July 30, 2010
Issue #35


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16. Mahadeva Srinivasan: Two-Time Nuclear Energy Pioneer for India

By Steven B. Krivit

Srini, or Chino, as many of us call Mahadeva Srinivasan, will almost certainly disapprove of my title for this short article. He is a modest man and does not seek personal attention or recognition. He does, however, seek attention and recognition for science, and he is one of its great explorers.

He is known throughout the Indian nuclear energy community and, to a certain extent, around the world for his pioneering physics research that paved the way for India - uninvited - to join the world's nuclear superpower club.

In 2007, I had the honor of being invited by him to join him on a two-week speaking tour among India's top nuclear researchers.

Shortly after the March 23, 1989, "cold fusion" announcement, Srini and his colleague Padmanabha Iyengar led the largest group effort in LENR research. Their Bhabha Atomic Research Centre 1500 Report will be a lasting legacy of their success.

But after a few years, the project was shut down because of the growing stigma against "cold fusion" and a lack of courage in the new leadership at BARC. For years, Srini had hoped to revitalize low-energy nuclear reactions research in India.

In 2007, the stars seemed to align for him, and he was able to facilitate briefings in 2008 with several of the present and past Indian Atomic Energy Commission chairmen, the prime minister's science adviser, and many colleagues in India's nuclear industry.

At the first stop on our 2008 tour, at the International Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics, at Taramati Baradari Cultural Complex, Hyderabad, Srini gave the welcoming address:

Last week, before coming here, I was in Bombay, and we had a conference for those of us who joined BARC a half-century ago. When we joined, we were all young people full of enthusiasm for the future, and now, at the reunion, many of us are grandfathers, past the age of 70. But what was relevant was, having spent 50 years in science and technology, nuclear technology, we find that right now we are concerned about a problem which has been truly a paradigm shift in science, as you will hear tomorrow in the workshop on LENR.

Science being what it is, it is always evolving, and one of the big problems in science is that, once you've spent 20, 30, or 40 years in a particular field, you find it very difficult to open up your mind to new developments. So what we are going to talk about tomorrow is something I'm almost sure that many of you have never heard about, and those of you who have heard about it, unfortunately you may have a very negative opinion about it.

All I can say is that there are always new ideas, and it’s going to take some time for mankind to appreciate them. In this context, I want to pay my compliments to Professor [Ethirajan] Rajan. He had the guts and the vision to accept that we need to bring together people who are dealing with some of these advanced and maybe controversial topics in order for things to progress.

Despite the fact that there were many uncertainties about "cold fusion" at the time, Srini and his colleagues knew their empirical research was real and important.

"Iyengar and I stuck to our guns," Srini said.

In the second week of our lecture tour, several of us gave presentations at the National Institute for Advanced Studies on the campus of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. Afterward, Srini reflected on the day:

"I think the meeting went off very well," Srinivasan said. "I'm particularly happy with the remarks of [Madapuji Rajagopalan] Srinivasan [not related], especially because he is the past chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and a current member of the AEC. He specifically said that people can't afford not to put at least a small effort into LENR research, despite the fact that they are all busy working on their fast breeder reactors. He's a reactor engineer. For him to say that, I think, is very promising.

"As I said, this was my last-ditch effort. If it failed this time, I was going to give up. That was going to be it. I passed 70. I've been fighting for 15 years."

I asked Srini about his definition of success.

"The senior people, including [Rajagopala] Chidambaram [science adviser to the prime minister], sounded positive," Srini said. "I think everybody is now clear that the phenomenon is real and that it is not a small minor effect. Everybody agrees that we don't understand the physics but that we have to investigate it."

Soon after I returned to the U.S. from the speaking tour in India, I learned that several new experimental LENR projects had started.


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