There is a great irony lurking behind the highly secretive doors of India’s atomic energy establishment.
Even without the Indo-US nuclear deal, at least 40 million more homes could have been lit up for an entire year in power-starved India if the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) had mined and used the extensive uranium reserves lying untapped for years.
<b1>On Friday, the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India hammered home that point in a damning audit report that peels off the DAE’s sheen. It faulted the all-powerful department for the fuel crisis that is causing India’s nuclear reactors to run at half or less of their capacity.
This “denied the nation the full benefits of clean nuclear energy to the extent of 21,845 million units corresponding to Rs 5,986 cores,” the report said. One person uses an average of 553 units of electricity in India every year.
“This (estimation of financial losses) can only be a theoretical exercise which leads to misleading conclusions,” the DAE told the auditor in response. It accepted the facts stated by CAG but added: “Due to (the) mismatch in demand and supply of fuel for (reactors) since 2003-4, these were being operated at lower levels to conserve fuel.”
But the DAE itself is responsible for that mismatch.
On Friday, DAE chief Anil Kakodkar’s office did not respond to HT’s queries on the issue, sent through fax and e-mail.
HT first reported in June, 2008 on the country’s Great Uranium Sham: As India went knocking on the doors of the US and other countries for uranium to create energy for its economy — for which PM Manmohan Singh risked his government — a bitter truth hidden from the nation was also unravelling.
India has long been sitting on much of the uranium it needs – enough to produce 10,000 mw of electricity for the 40-year life span of its reactors. It was just not excavated.
The ore was buried under the surface — over 1 lakh tonnes across Jharkhand, Meghalaya, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu – with tens of thousands of tonnes of new deposits already identified elsewhere in the country.
India’s nuclear bosses also knew since 2000 that a massive energy crisis was coming the country’s way.
But the DAE did little to mine the uranium, depriving millions of cheap electricity. Worse, the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd did not use a lot of the Uranium it had mined. And the DAE misled the Cabinet by getting new reactors approved when it knew that there was no fuel to run them, the CAG said.