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Taking care of India’s nuclear power

Uranium Corporation of India Limited is a public sector enterprise under the administrative control of the Department of Atomic Energy. It produces uranium for pressurised heavy water reactors, playing a major role in the country’s nuclear power programme. HT spoke with its chairman and managing director R. Gupta.

delhi Updated: Sep 06, 2010 02:50 IST

Uranium Corporation of India Limited is a public sector enterprise under the administrative control of the Department of Atomic Energy. It produces uranium for pressurised heavy water reactors, playing a major role in the country’s nuclear power programme. HT spoke with its chairman and managing director R. Gupta. Excerpts:

Indian nuclear industry’s growth is interlinked with the growth of uranium mining industry. How do you see the company’s growth?

With the humble beginning from one mine and one processing plant at Jaduguda in East Singhbhum District of Jharkhand, we have expanded our operations to five underground mines, one open-pit mine and two processing plants in Jharkhand. Another underground mine in Jharkhand; another underground mine and a processing plant in Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh are in advanced stage of construction. These are slated to start operation in 2011.

Is waste management a major concern?

The mill tailings form the bulk of the waste generated. The coarse fraction of the tailings (about 50 per cent) after neutralisation, are used for filling the voids underground. The fine fraction in form of slime, are neutralised and disposed off in a specially engineered impoundment system called tailings pond. The decanted effluent from the tailing pond is treated further at effluent treatment plant and recycled for the use in process plant.

How do you ensure healthy working conditions and safety of the employees?

A well-designed ventilation network is in place in the mines providing adequate fresh air at all working places, thereby minimising likelihood of radon inhalation and controlling air-borne dust. In the plants, the generation of dust (both radioactive and siliceous) is controlled at source using dust extractor. Workers are provided with respirators and other personal protective equipment. Sources of noise are isolated as far as possible.

UCIL operations in Jharkhand are mostly in tribal region, how do you fulfil their aspirations?

UCIL is acclaimed amongst the local people for its multitudinous welfare activities undertaken specially towards tribal upliftment. It has shown utmost concern for the education, health, infrastructure development, promotion of sports etc. amongst the local people. The corporation now runs four schools at three of its residential areas in Jharkhand where about 3,000 students are enrolled. UCIL has a special Talent Nurture Programme providing free education, complete set of textbooks, uniforms etc. and also a monthly stipend to meritorious students of nearby villages. UCIL also runs three hospitals catering the need of its employees and neighbouring villagers.