The UPA government is learned to have initiated a complete review of the availability of uranium to fuel its nuclear power plants, in the wake of the successful culmination of the Indo-US agreement for peaceful use of nuclear power.
India is likely to acquire economically viable uranium deposits abroad to exploit them for peaceful domestic use, apart from setting up new uranium exploration and extraction projects in six Indian states.
These are the proposals contained in a presentation by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to the committee of secretaries in early December. While substantial uranium deposits exist in India, "efforts should be taken to acquire economically viable uranium deposits abroad to exploit them for domestic use," DAE reportedly told the committee.
One strategy recommended was collaborating with major and minor uranium exploration companies the world over for exploration and exploitation in India and abroad.
India, DAE says, has the capacity to generate 21,180-megawatts of electricity by 2020, under its Nuclear Power Programme. The country has an established uranium oxide reserve of 1,17,800 metric tonne in the six states, it added.
DAE has identified Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Meghalaya and Rajasthan for new domestic uranium projects. It has proposed a private-public partnership model for exploration and exploitation, with the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL) holding not less than by 26 per cent shares, with management control by majority stakeholders.
Sources say Rohil in Rajasthan and Lambapur in Andhra Pradesh are likely to be the first two projects to be set up under this arrangement.
In order to expedite exploitation of the nation's uranium potential, DAE has reportedly urged that "a high-powered committee chaired by Cabinet secretary be set up to oversee statutory clearances by state and central authorities. Further, generic forest and environmental clearances be given for exploration by Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD)."
AMD is responsible for exploration and research relating to atomic minerals required for India's nuclear programme.
Its responsibility of identifying nuclear raw materials (uranium, thorium, tantalum, beryllium, zirconium, lithium, yttrium, and rare earth minerals) is the first step in India's nuclear fuel cycle.