Experts are praising the civil nuclear deal to be signed on Friday between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, saying it would help the country meet the ever-increasing demand of uranium supply for power plants.
“This is a welcome step as India can expect a supply of uranium from Australia on a continuous basis. It is yet another diversified source and will go a long way in helping the continuous operation of reactors fueled by imported uranium,” Nuclear Power Corporation India executive director N Nagaich told Business Standard.
The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has estimated India’s annual need for uranium would to increase to 1,600 tonnes by 2019 from the present level of 400 tonnes and it will further rise to 2,000 tonnes by 2022. According to the DAE, India has limited uranium resources. With the finding of new reserves in the Tummalapalle mines in Andhra Pradesh, the total capacity had shot up by five per cent. Apart from Andhra Pradesh, the other active uranium mines are located in Jaduguda in Jharkhand. These reserves, however, are not enough to meet the increasing fuel demand.
Currently, of 19 power plants with a total capacity of 5,870 MW, nine operating reactors of 1,840 MW under International Atomic Energy Agency are operating with imported fuel. Since the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group has given unconditional waiver, India has so far imported over 2,000 tonnes of uranium.
At present, India is sourcing uranium from Russia, Kazakhstan and other suppliers. Besides, India has signed similar deals with Mongolia and Uzbekistan, which have 1,85,800 tonnes of proven uranium deposits.
Australia, which has 40 per cent of the world's known uranium reserves, had lifted a long-standing ban on selling uranium to energy-starved India in 2012.
Sudhendra Thakur, former distignuished scientist of the DAE said the civil nuclear deal between India and Australia would further the process of full international co-operation in civil nuclear power under international safeguards. “While for India, the agreement diversifies sources for nuclear materials, for Australia, it will go a long way in increasing regional participation and providing a wider basket for its resources. There would not be any red tape in yellow business,” he noted.
Neelam Deo, director of Mumbai-based think-tank Gateway House said the nuclear cooperation agreement would strengthen bilateral and expand strategic cooperation between the two countries.
“India is Australia’s fifth largest export market, with total exports of $11.4 billion. There is a thriving Indian community of nearly 295,000 in Australia. Australia’s support will also facilitate India’s entry into the four non-proliferation regimes – Australia Group, Wassenaar Agreement, Nuclear Suppliers Group, Missile Technology Control Regime,” she added.