India looking to import uranium from Uzbekistan

A delegation of Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) officials travelled to Uzbekistan last week to discuss the modalities of a possible contract, sources told PTI here.

New Delhi: India is in talks with Uzbekistan for procuring uranium for growing requirement of fuel for its nuclear plants, expected to increase in number in coming years.

A delegation of Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) officials travelled to Uzbekistan last week to discuss the modalities of a possible contract, sources said here.

They said a contract for procurement of uranium could materialise in the near future.

India is looking at importing about 2,000 tonnes of uranium by 2014 from Uzbekistan, which has 1,85,800 tonnes of proven uranium deposits.

The visit by the DAE team took place against the backdrop of talks between External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and his Uzbek counterpart Abdulaziz Kamilov last month in Tashkent. During the talks, the issue of uranium import to India was discussed.

India already has a contract for uranium import from another Central Asian nation Kazakhstan and Mongolia. Apart from these countries, Kyrgyzstan also has rich uranium deposits.

DAE officials, however, said that they were looking for uranium across the world to meet the growing demand for the country's nuclear power plants.

"It is not that we are focusing on Central Asia only, but the region happens to have proven reserves of uranium. We will try to procure uranium from wherever possible," said a senior DAE official.

"We are also looking at Niger and Namibia to get our supply of uranium," the official added.

Both these countries have rich deposits of uranium. In 2009, India also signed a civil nuclear cooperation with Namibia.

India currently has 19 active nuclear reactors that produce 4,780 MW of electricity.

In the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-2017), Nuclear Power Corporation India Ltd (NPCIL) plans to add 16 more reactors and increase power generation to 16,000 MW and further take it up to 20,000 MW by 2022.

In his speech at the 57th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna last month, DAE secretary Ratan Kumar Sinha said India had "limited resources" from which it is trying to "extract maximum energy".

Sinha had said with the finding of new reserves of uranium, the total reserves capacity had shot up by five percent. He was referring to the Tummalapalle mines in YSR district in Andhra Pradesh.

Apart from Andhra Pradesh, other active uranium mines are in Jaduguda in Jharkhand. These reserves, however, are not enough to meet the increasing fuel demand.

India has already signed a civil nuclear agreement with Mongolia in 2010 while it has a similar agreement in place with Kazakhstan to procures uranium. Kazakhstan has 15 percent of uranium reserves of the world.

India currently gets uranium from Russia, France and Kazakhstan.

After the Indo-US nuclear deal in 2009, the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has been open to sell uranium to India. Countries like Canada and Australia, which were earlier stern over the issue, have expressed willingness to export uranium to India, albeit under the IAEA safeguards.