Shortage of nuclear fuel hits Indian nuclear power plants

January 6th, 2009 - 7:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Shillong, Jan 6 (IANS) India’s nuclear power plants have been working at about half their capacity due to shortage of nuclear fuel despite the efforts of the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) to tap indigenous uranium deposits. The power plants are facing shortage of uranium supply due to the slow process of opening up of new uranium mines.

“We are still waiting for various clearances from the Meghalaya government for developing an open cast mine to extract 375,000 tonnes of uranium deposits at Kylleng-Pyndeng-Sohiong and setting up of a processing plant at Mawthabah to feed immediate requirements of the nuclear plants,” said Swapnesh Kumar Malhotra, head of the public awareness division of the Atomic Minerals Division (AMD).

However, the ruling Meghalaya Progressive Alliance government is yet to take a concrete decision on the Rs.10.46 billion mega project due to strong opposition within the alliance and other NGOs.

“It is an established fact that uranium is a highly radioactive element, which can unleash terrible contamination on people and the environment,” Khasi Student’s Union President Samuel Jyrwa said.

“The effect it will have on the health of the people will be crippling and deadly.”

Malhotra, however, sounded optimistic that the long-pending project would be executed soon. In fact, the central government has decided to sanction Rs.13 billion for development of infrastructure in the proposed uranium mining areas, provided the state government evolves a consensus over the mining issue.

“Even after making best use of all available domestic resources, it is impossible to meet the required electricity generation profile without Meghalaya’s contribution in supply of uranium from its vast reserve,” the AMD official said.

India currently has 17 operating reactors, with a total installed capacity of 4,120 MWs.

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