Context:

  • Discussions are at a ‘well-advanced’ stage for Australia’s uranium sale to India, to fuel nuclear power plants to achive energy security in India.

Introduction:

  • Australia will start uranium exports to India as soon as possible,  to fuel a long-standing demand from Asia’s third largest economy.
  • India is   looking at environment friendly fuels to power its growing economy.
  • There are ongoing commercial discussions between Australian uranium exporters and the Indian Department of Atomic Energy for possible contracts in civil nuclear projects.
  • The amount of uranium that ultimately will be exported will depend on the commercial negotiations.

Background:

  • Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott signed MoU for “Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy” with India on 5th September 2014.
  • Thereafter, Australia put in place a safeguards agreement and last December passed the legislation to start supplying uranium to India. The uranium trade with India is viewed as the cornerstone of a bilateral strategic partnership.
  • The significant part of the civil nuclear cooperation agreement was that Australia agreed to become ‘a long-term reliable supplier of uranium to India’.

Related statistics:

  • India’s Central Electricity Authority forecasted that 57 per cent  of India’s total capacity will come from non-fossil fuel sources by 2027, aiming to surpass India’s renewable energy targets set in Paris two years ago.
  • India intends to generate 275 gigawatts from renewables, alongside 72 GW of hydropower and almost 15 GW of nuclear energy.
  • India has 22  operating nuclear reactors with a capacity of almost 7000 megawatts, generating approximately three per cent of India’s electricity.
  • The annual uranium requirement for the current fleet is around 1400 tonnes of uranium per year.
  • Five more reactors are under construction and ten more are planned, once completed will make India’s annual uranium needs more than double to  3600 tonnes.

Why India imports uranium from outside?

  • While India does have its own domestic uranium deposits, they are small and low-grade, with production insufficient to meet even current reactor requirements

Recent developments:

  • Australia has much potential to offer with regard to coal, uranium, and clean energy solutions.
  • Australia is the largest exporter of coal to India.
  • Both the countries are interested in coal mining.
  • Adani Group’s planned multi-billion dollar Carmichael coalmine in Australia’s Queensland.
  • Australian companies have developed a range of technology solutions to deal with environment regulations.
  • Australia Business Week in India (ABWI) to be held between August 28-Septmber 1 to “promote Australian capability and expand Australia’s trade, investment and education relationships.
  • In the ABWI, the mining sector will be a key focus area.
  • Australia produces 60% of the world’s mining computer software that helps in improving the sector’s productivity, and in ensuring worker’s safety.

India-Australia Nuclear cooperation agreement:

  • The nuclear cooperation agreement with Australia came into force in November 2015.
  • It was reported last year that Australian companies were in negotiations with India to provide 1,500 tonnes of uranium over five years.
  • The agreement will offer enormous benefits to both India and Australia. The importance of nuclear cooperation between India and Australia are as under:
  1. India is actively seeking to address energy shortfalls
  • India has a stated goal of raising its nuclear energy capacity to 63,000 MW by 2032 by adding $85 billion worth of reactors.
  • In addition to increasing uranium to India, the agreement will also increase sales of coal and natural gas to the South Asian nation.
  1. Further legitimization of India’s status as a nuclear power
  • India is the first country to buy Australian uranium that was not a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. \
  1. Australia benefits from diversified trade patterns
  • Australia has the world’s third largest uranium reserves.
  • The country can quite easily afford to become the long-term supplier of uranium that India will need to meet its ever-growing energy needs.

Australia’s position in uranium:

  • Australia is considered to have the largest reserve of recoverable uranium in the world.
  • However, Australia ranks third in terms of production of uranium.
  • Kazakhstan and Canada produce more than Australia.
  • India is the first country to buy Uranium from Australia without being a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
  • Australia is considered to have the largest reserve of recoverable uranium.
  • World Nuclear Association and Australian government say that Australia ranks third in terms of production of uranium.
  • Australia produces uranium basically to export as it does not operate nuclear power plants. So, Australia may become the most important uranium supplier to India.

Conclusion:

  • The uranium supply is critical to India’s plans for the nuclear energy expansion. The current nuclear expansion plan needs uranium and India has concluded agreements with Canada and Kazakhstan among others.

 

 

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