India expects first uranium shipment from Australia by March

India is seeking to buy as much as 1,500 tonnes of the atomic fuel over five years and expects its first shipment of about 250 tonnes in around eight months


India has 21 reactors that can generate 5,780 megawatts of electricity. Of this, 13 reactors, with a combined capacity of 3,380 megawatts, are under international safeguards and run on imported fuel. Photo: Mint
India has 21 reactors that can generate 5,780 megawatts of electricity. Of this, 13 reactors, with a combined capacity of 3,380 megawatts, are under international safeguards and run on imported fuel. Photo: Mint

New Delhi: India is in talks to get its first shipment of uranium from Australia by March, highlighting the south Asian nation’s push to secure supplies of a key component of its clean-energy strategy.

India is seeking to buy as much as 1,500 tonnes of the atomic fuel over five years and expects its first shipment of about 250 tonnes in around eight months, if they agree on prices, Sekhar Basu, secretary at the department of atomic energy, said in a phone interview.

“We’re in talks” with as many as three companies, Basu said. “But how much we import will ultimately depend on the price.”

A deal with Australia will follow similar pacts with Canada, Kazakhstan and Russia for sourcing the fuel, as India considers creating a uranium reserve to fuel its reactors. India aims to expand its nuclear generation 10-fold by 2032 to counter pollution. It has been hampered partly by limited local availability of uranium, as well as the country’s nuclear liability laws, which have discouraged most foreign investment in the industry. More than three-fourths of India’s electricity is now generated by coal plants, which have higher emissions.

India’s reactors

India has 21 reactors that can generate 5,780 megawatts of electricity. Of this, 13 reactors, with a combined capacity of 3,380 megawatts, are under international safeguards and run on imported fuel. Another 1,000 megawatt reactor, which is expected to soon start operations in Tamil Nadu, will also be under the watch of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Domestic mines feed the other eight reactors, which have a combined 2,400 megawatts of nuclear power capacity. The bulk of India’s uranium comes from its oldest Jadugora mine in eastern Jharkhand state. New mining projects have been slow to take off because of resistance from local communities, Basu said in January.

India imported about 597 tonnes of uranium in various forms in the year ended 31 March, according to the atomic energy ministry. The country received its first uranium shipment from Canada and imported about half its requirement of the fuel during the period.

India emerged from nuclear exile following an agreement with the US in 2008, leading to the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group lifting a three-decade ban on sharing technology and fuel. India has since signed nuclear accords with 12 countries, including the US, UK, Canada and Australia, according to the World Nuclear Association.

It is now lobbying to join the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group, which is charged with reducing proliferation by controlling the transfer of materials used to develop an atomic weapon. Bloomberg

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