India Gains Access to Namibian Uranium

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"Uranium import agreements with Kazakhstan and Mongolia are also in the works."

In the race to secure uranium supplies for nuclear energy, India has been busy forming ties with uranium-producing countries.

Since the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) began allowing trade in nuclear fuel and technology with India in September and signing an agreement with the U.S. in October 2008 to lift a three-decade ban on nuclear trade, India has signed additional agreements with Kazakhstan, Russia and France.

On Tuesday, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) put French and Russian imported uranium to work as it synchronized its Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS-2) to the grid.

To help with the South Asian nation's uranium mining ambitions, the U.S. recently offered its technical know-how. "We can certainly explore options and opportunities available," said U.S. Consul General Beth Payne. "Maybe we can partner with the government and share our experience and expertise on how to mine uranium safely."

The U.S. has also extended an offer of scientific partnership to aid India in developing its nuclear capacity. "We see India as a responsible non-proliferator. We would like to help India develop its civilian nuclear capacity because it is a viable form of clean energy," said Payne.

The 46 member NSG that oversees global atomic business granted an almost unheard of exemption last year, allowing for the sale of nuclear fuel and technology to India.

The exemption raised eyebrows because India has refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has nuclear weapons.

Under the NPT, only five nations can have nuclear weapons and those slots are taken by the U.S., Russia, UK, China and France. To sign the treaty would involve giving up its nuclear arsenal, which India isn't prepared to do.

While the exemption may have given uranium-producing nations the green light to do business with India, Australia, one of the world's biggest uranium exporters, is still sticking to its policy not to sell uranium to a non-NPT signatory.

On Monday, India inked an agreement with uranium-rich Namibia for cooperation in developing the African nation's nuclear energy industry and uranium sales to India. Uranium import agreements with Kazakhstan and Mongolia are also in the works.

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