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Uranium power

Tribune, Delhi, 8th September, 2014


India gets an important Australian concession Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's visit to New Delhi has assumed special significance because of the two countries signing a nuclear cooperation agreement under which Australia would sell uranium to generate power in nuclear power stations. The deal is also significant because this is the first time that Australia is selling uranium to a country that is not a signatory of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). Till now, Australia only exported uranium to NPT signatories - China, Japan, Taiwan and the US. There has been a sea change in the attitude of various world powers that had originally placed restrictions after the peaceful nuclear explosions in 1998. Yet it has been a long road towards normalcy. It was only in 2008 that the US signed an agreement with India on civilian nuclear cooperation. This paved the way for further erosion of sanctions and signing of other such agreements. Even with Australia, there were ups and downs, but all that is in the past.


Australia will now join France, Russia and Kazakhstan, as a supplier of uranium, the need of which is increasing because of the energy demands of the country. Australia is reaching out to India as a business partner after recognising that the trade between the two countries is a fraction of what it can be. Australia is also a major supplier of coal that powers many of our thermal power stations, which are in dire need of more supplies. Australian coal and natural gas will be increasingly necessary for these plants, many of which are running at less than optimum capacity because of lack of fuel. Right now, the country is too dependent on thermal power plants, and thus, needs to import more hydrocarbon fuels. In the long run, however, there is no alternative but to tap nuclear power, which accounts for just a tiny percentage of the country's total power capacity. Now that a major producer of uranium like Australia is on board, the focus must shift to running our plants to full capacity and building more facilities to provide electricity to all.