India's New Uranium Operation Could Host One of World's Largest Reserves
Source: Shivom Seth, Mineweb (4/30/12)
"For a country that has been importing uranium to fuel its nuclear power plants from across the world, the commissioning of the mine has been hailed as a significant step to help fill the void."
The construction work on the uranium ore mine and processing plant cost an estimated $208 million. Studies indicated that Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh is endowed with one of the largest uranium reserves in the world. They have shown that Tummalapalle in the district could have reserves of 150,000 tonnes of the mineral.
Atomic Energy Commission Chief S. Banerjee said the mining project was of a much bigger magnitude than was earlier envisaged and that it required the construction of a second processing plant which would be undertaken shortly.
India has estimated reserves of about 175,000 tonnes of uranium. The plant will treat the dolomite limestone based uraniferous ore and is the first in the country to adopt an alkali leaching processing method. The final product will be sodium di uranate.
"Tummalapalle could be one of the world's largest uranium deposits and the new facility would provide a major fillip to the country's nuclear program,'' newswires quoted Banerjee as saying. He was speaking to reporters after commissioning of the processing plant.
The project, owned by the Uranium Corporation of India, will produce 3,000 tonnes of ore daily in the first phase and go up gradually, while the second phase will produce a further 1,500 tonnes per day. The mine is estimated to have uranium reserves of almost 150,000 tonnes—a ten-fold increase of the original estimate.
Banerjee said that they had detected valuable uranium ore in the area way back in 2004.
The plant has a high level of automation, which will enable precise control of process parameters, ensuring high degrees of efficiency, besides highest levels of safety and environment protection in the project, the chairman said.
The mine is said to be the most modern underground mine in India. Banerjee added that the first uranium project in the country was in Jaduguda in Jharkhand and the second was this plant.
Officials said the reserves would be sufficient to generate 10,000 MW of nuclear power without resorting to costly imports. The uranium plant will play a major role in the country's plans to drastically expand nuclear power generation.
Officials added that nuclear power generation in the country would reach 60,000 megawatts by 2050. Reports indicate that India is planning to set up some 30 reactors and get a quarter of its electricity from nuclear energy by 2050.