India gets first consignment of uranium post-NSG clearance


Hyderabad : India has started benefiting from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) clearance for supply of nuclear fuel with the first consignment of 60 tonnes of uranium from France landing at the Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) here.

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This first shipment is part of the 300 tonnes of uranium ore concentrate which French nuclear supplier AREVA NC has agreed to supply to India under bilateral cooperation for supplying reactors and fuel following clearance from the NSG, NFC officials said here Wednesday.

They said this uranium ore would be processed and used to produce power in safeguarded pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs).

“This uranium has to be used in safeguarded reactors only. We already have 15, out of which two are safeguarded,” R.N. Jayaraj, chief executive of NFC, told reporters.

He said the remainder of 240 tonnes of uranium from France was expected to reach NFC before the end of April.

With Russia also expected to send its first consignment of 120 tonnes soon, India hopes to tide over the shortage of uranium.

The official said uranium ore concentrate would be processed in the designated fuel plants at the NFC by converting it into nuclear grade uranium dioxide powder and then compacted in the form of cylindrical pellets.

“These pellets are stacked and encapsulated in thin walled tubes of zirconium alloy which will be sealed by resistance welding using end plugs, a technology which has been innovated in India,” he said.

Jayaraj said 19 such fuel pins would be assembled to form a fuel bundle for power plants. The NFC would be able to supply this fuel to only two PHWRs covered under the India-US nuclear deal. It would not be possible for NFC to supply the same to 13 other PHWRs.

NFC officials said reactors where the imported fuel is used would have to be made available for international inspections under the safeguards to which India has agreed.

India has received the first shipment of imported uranium at a time when its first nuclear plant, Tarapur Atomic Power Station (TAPS), completed 40 years of successful nuclear power generation.

The shipments from France and Russia are expected to help India tide over the current shortage of nuclear fuel and achieve the production target of 20,000 MW of nuclear power by 2020.

Atomic Energy Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar had recently said that despite the current economic slowdown, India was well on course to achieve the target.