India to open new uranium mines, boost nuclear power


Kakodkar said that the first consignment of 120 tonnes of uranium pellets had already landed in India, and the government was engaged in a dialogue with international vendor countries to get more such supplies.

Kakodkar said the uranium had been delivered under a kind of a long-term contract (with Russia). "They (Russia) will keep delivering and we will use it in the reactors, which we are putting under safeguards," he said.

"We also had a contract with Areva (of France) and uranium has come from there too," said Kakodkar, also Secretary in the Department of Atomic Energy.

The scientist said India was talking to a number countries, but did not name them saying that the discussions with some countries were "in very fluid stages".

Prospective vendor companies are currently in discussion mode and have to go through a lot of understanding about the reactors and their design, among other things, he said.

"Its not a shop where you go and buy. You have to customise in given site. That work is going on and after that it has to be costed. We have to find out what its going to cost us and we have said that electricity generation should be competitive with other alternatives which are available," Kakodkar said.

He said the vendors would have to do a lot of value additions within India. "Thats what we are emphasising. So, this is a detailed exercise as it may take some time. These are processes which easily take one year to one-and-half years," Kakodkar said.

India's current nuclear power generation capacity is 4,120 MW which is planned to be increased by around 3,000 MW within the next two years as some of the reactor projects are currently under construction. The focus is also on reaching full capacity at the existing and new nuclear power plants.

Kakodkar said the Government had given in-principle approval for setting up four 700 MW nuclear power plants and pre-project activity was in progress. The proposed plants, two of which are located in Rajasthan, are expected to get a formal approval soon.

On the investment needed for these four plants, he said typically it costs around Rs 6.5 crore per MW.

He said more nuclear power plants with 700 MW capacity would come in future. "After completion of negotiations with vendor countries under international civil nuclear cooperation, we should be able to define (new) projects. So, there is a growth path," Kakodkar said.

Kakodkar said, "We are also looking to set up additional mines. Some mines have already come on stream. Some projects are going on. But we want to start new projects."

He said some exploration work has been started at Gogi (near Gulbarga) in Karnataka "and hopefully we will be able to convert that also into a project".

"Then we are also looking at Meghalaya (for opening mines)," he said.

"Once we are able to start new mine projects which are in the exploration stage, then we want to proceed with some more heavy water reactors. That's tied-up with start-up on the uranium mines," Kakodkar said.

Asked about the update on the high temperature reactor, he said, "Its under development. It will take a while. We are developing basic materials, configuration and things like that."

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