Uranium FDI to be part of nuclear family

Uranium FDI to be part of nuclear family

The government may soon organise a road show to attract foreign investment in uranium exploration and mining. The move is significant in the light of the proposed Indo-US civil nuclear energy cooperation, that would pave way for large-scale investments in nuclear power generation.

It is understood that a decision to outsource uranium exploration has been taken by the government. In order to invite bids from national and international companies involved in exploration and mining of uranium, it may soon organise road shows, sources said. It has been thought that mining of high-grade ore would be possible with foreign investment and technology.

Considering future energy requirements, the government plans to accelerate exploration and mining of uranium. The country’s annual uranium requirement is 1,334 tonnes per annum, which is expected to rise significantly after the Indo-US civil nuclear deal comes into force. The country aims at having 30,000 mw nuclear power generation capacity by 2022 and 63,000 mw by 2032. Presently, nuclear energy provides less than 3% of our energy mix with total installed capacity of nuclear power generation at around 3,350 mw.

It has been reported that some international exploration firms, such as Magnum Uranium Corporation of Canada, have expressed interest in undertaking uranium exploration activities in India. Outsourcing of uranium exploration is not new. The uranium deposit in Jaduguda (Jharkhand) was discovered in 1951 with the help of Associated Drilling Co of London.

The report of the expert committee on Integrated Energy Policy has also said that the opening up of uranium exploration and mining is necessary in the wake of negligible availability of the ore in the country. It is estimated that the country has over 94,000 tonnes of uranium reserves, of which over 64,400 tonnes are reasonably-assured reserves. The present resource of uranium ore is estimated to be able to fuel only 10,000-mw pressurised heavy water reactor. Though fast breeder reactor (FBR) technology can increase this to 20,000 mw, it is crucial that domestic resources are increased to reduce dependence on imports.

The policy has also observed that uranium fuel in the country’s nuclear plants costs three times the prevailing international prices due to poor deposits. It is, therefore, important that foreign players bring in technology for scientific mining of uranium ore so that not only quantity of ore is increased but also quality is improved.

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