Nuclear power plants short of domestic fuel

Nuclear power plants short of domestic fuel

Despite an increase in fuel production in the last two years, nuclear power plants dependent on domestic fuel are running at just 67 per cent of their capacity, adversely impacting India’s nuclear ambitions.

The Prime Minister mentioned the increase in fuel production in UPA government's performance report.

Despite the short supply of domestic fuel, Uranium Corporation of India (UCIL) did little to allay local people’s apprehensions about health hazards and operationalise two of India’s largest uranium mines in Domiasiat in Meghalaya and Lambapur in Andhra Pradesh. Both projects began in the 10th Plan period.

A Parliamentary Standing Committee, which quizzed officials from department of atomic energy, said it failed to understand why DAE could not amicably sort out issues with the local populace through extensive public awareness and outreach programmes,
considering that a “large amount of money” had been pumped into the two projects.

The DAE stood firm on its notion that uranium mining did not cause any health hazard. It carried out health surveys to drive home the point, but did not communicate the findings to those to whom it mattered the most.

“The fact that uranium mining does not cause health hazard needs to be appropriately conveyed to the people so as to convince them and win their confidence,” the House panel said in its report reprimanding the atomic energy department.

Till recently India had six operational uranium mines in Jharkhand and two more mines – Mouldih in Jharkhand and Tummalapalle in Cuddapah district of Andhra Pradesh – were added to the list of late.

But reactors operating with domestic fuel supply continue to experience a fuel crunch.
Panel’s rap. As the reserves in Meghalaya and Lambapur were out of bounds, DAE pinned its hopes on Tummalapalle and Gogi in Karnataka. But financial allocation for both the projects was slashed by the government in the last fiscal due to under-utilisation of funds by UCIL.

Officials told the panel that under-utilisation of funds was due to delay in getting departmental sanction for projects. But the panel noted that these were only procedural delays.

Admitting its inability to access high grade ores due to public opposition, an UCIL official said that the company was using progressively lower grade deposits with adverse ore geometry, which required more operational time.

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