India must aggressively exploit uranium reserves: Kakodkar

India must aggressively exploit uranium reserves: Kakodkar

Sunday, August 6th 2006

India has to aggressively exploit its limited uranium reserves while seeking opportunities for international nuclear cooperation without affecting the autonomy of its atomic energy programme, Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar said today.

Addressing members of the Department of Atomic Energy at a function here to mark 50 years of Asia’s first nuclear research reactor Apsara, he said, “We have to adopt an aggressive mode of uranium exploration and mining to meet the increasing demand for electricity in the country by increasing the share of nuclear power generation.

“This has to be done with the new technologies developed by BARC and the collective wisdom of Indian geologists as I am confident that we can get ore of the quality that exists elsewhere in the world,” he told the gathering at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.

“If there are opportunities of any international cooperation without impinging our autonomy, without hampering our three-stage programme to have more energy production to meet the country’s needs, the self-reliance and energy independence programme should not get dissolved,” Kakodkar said.

On the Indo-US nuclear deal, he said, “We will stick to July 18, 2005 agreement…we stand by that.” Kakodkar had earlier said the US was changing the goalposts for the deal.

India, which has limited uranium reserves, has framed a long-term nuclear energy programme that will be driven by the country’s abundant reserves of thorium.

Besides the aggressive exploration and mining of uranium, there was a need to improve fuel production for the nuclear power programme without compromising self-reliance, Kakodkar said.

“We are already doing exploration in several states and some places like Meghalaya have yielded better quality uranium and we must go more aggressively,” Kakodkar stressed.

India’s three-stage indigenous programme as envisaged in the early 1950s will continue. The DAE is also developing accelerator driven systems and hydrogen energy as new sources of energy. Once BARC and the Centre for Advanced Technology were ready with these technologies, the programme will begin at BARC’s new facility in Andhra Pradesh, he said.

Kakodkar said during the past 50 years, the “swimming pool type” Apsara reactor acted as the cradle of the country’s nuclear prograqmme and it would continue to play such a role.

“It was the wisdom of the country’s nuclear programme founder Dr Homi Bhabha to go ahead to choose the path of uranium exploration (poor quality 0.26 per cent grade) and mining at Jaduguda, despite the fact that we were getting two boiling water reactors at Tarapur with enriched fuel from abroad during the 1960s, when embargoes were as difficult as today,” he said.

In this era of outsourcing, Kakodkar said, it was “time to create national strength by having a transformed value system by recognising our leadership in research and development and technology and strengthening coordination and cooperation between the nuclear industry and research and development units of the DAE”.

It is also time to learn and respect abilities in excellence in plant operation, safety management and environment preservation. “Achieving excellence alone is not enough but it has to be practiced with a more focussed manner for the protection of investment,” he said.

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