Australian Uranium Exports to India Gather Steam
Source: Shivom Seth, Mineweb (12/14/11)
"With the Australian governing Labor party having voted to overturn its long-standing ban on exporting uranium to India, the nation's strategic ties with India are set to benefit."
Australian defense minister Stephen Smith was in India recently, on his first visit after the ban was withdrawn. Smith reportedly has held several discussions and meetings with the defense services and held uranium export talks with senior ranking officials in India. "Talks on uranium exports have gathered steam,'' a high ranking official who was present at the discussion reportedly said.
Smith, who has favored uranium exports to India, was quoted by newswire agencies as saying that India represented a 'unique' case for uranium sales. In a missive, Smith underlined that the uranium export decision reflected India's global standing, and predicted it would become "one of the world's three great powers," along with the U.S. and China.
India is the sixth largest energy consumer in the world, accounting for 3.4% of global energy consumption. As of 2010, India has 20 nuclear reactors in operation in six nuclear power plants, generating 4,780 MW. Another five plants are under construction and are expected to generate an additional 2,720 MW, according to trade experts.
Australia holds around 40% of the world's estimated low cost uranium reserves. With large deposits in the Northern Territory, northern and central Western Australia, northwestern Queensland and in central South Australia, the decision to lift the ban on exporting uranium to the growing Asian power has been welcomed in all circles.
India's external affairs minister S. M. Krishna told reporters recently that bilateral cooperation in the energy sector was one of the important facets of India's multifaceted ties with Australia.
"Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's change in the ruling Labour Party's policy on sale of uranium to India is a recognition of our energy needs, the impeccable record of our nonproliferation treaty accord and strategic partnership,'' Krishna reportedly told a section of the media.
The chief of the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries R K Sharma has also said it would be desirable to invest in Australian uranium assets. Several Indian companies have already invested billions of dollars in Australian coal assets in the past year to fuel the country's fast growing economy.
Welcoming the initiative, the president of Australia India Business Council Ravi Bhatia said the decision by the Australian Labor Party "is momentous and historic. The resulting accelerated economic development, job creation, industrial development and more power for irrigation are indeed far reaching effects of the Australian decision as are the corresponding social justice implications,'' he said, adding the decision validates India's unblemished record as a responsible nuclear power.
Moreover, R.K. Sinha, director of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, said India would look for opportunities of owning uranium mining assets overseas, apart from considering long-term supply contracts.
Though Australia ships nuclear fuel to China, Japan, Taiwan and the United States, it had excluded sales to India because the country is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty.