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India eyes Australian uranium

business Updated: Jun 07, 2010 23:38 IST
Anupama Airy
Anupama Airy
Hindustan Times
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Even as Australia maintains a blanket ban in selling uranium to nations, which have refused to sign the nuclear non proliferation treaty (NPT), New Delhi is making all efforts to push the envelope and secure supplies of this nuclear fuel for India’s civil nuclear programme.

Australia is home to 40 per cent of the world’s uranium reserves but its present Labour government under Kevin Rudd has already made it clear that it will not supply uranium to those countries which have not signed the NPT.

Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who is on a five day visit to Australia, said he “initiated some discussions” on sourcing uranium supplies during his meeting with Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith.

Hoping that Australian government would accommodate India’s need for uranium, Shinde said, “The whole world is supporting us in our civil nuclear programme. It is for them (Australia) to decide.”

Seeking anonymity, another senior government official accompanying Shinde said, “The elections are round the corner in Australia and the present government at this stage may not like to make any commitment on changing its domestic rules to supply uranium to India. However, this position may change post elections. We will have to wait.”

India’s High Commissioner to Australia Sujata Singh said, “Australia’s stand is the stated policy of their Labour party. However their election process is on and it is up to them to consider whether they want to export uranium or not.”

But will Australia bend its rules for India? “Uranium exports has been a long standing policy issue, it is an area where there is a different policy approach between friends,” Smith told Hindustan Times.

“This different policy approach between friends won’t get into the way of a very large potential in minerals and resources.”

Sujata Singh said Indian companies are free to join hands with Australian companies in exploration and mining of uranium in Australia. “Under the present policy, this uranium cannot be exported to non-NPT countries,” Singh said.

Reliance Industries is the only Indian company that has presence in Australia’s uranium mining sector. It has a tie-up with Uranium Exploration Australia for exploration of resources.

See graphic