Hyderabad/Mumbai, April 20 (IANS) India commissioned a uranium ore mine and processing plant in Andhra Pradesh Friday which is estimated to have one of the most significant uranium reserves in the world and could fuel 25 percent of the country's nuclear plants.
Atomic Energy Commission chairman Srikumar Banerjee commissioned the Rs.1,106 crore plant developed by the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL) at Thummalapalle in YSR Kadapa district, which is estimated to have world's largest uranium reserves.
Speaking on the occasion, Banerjee told reporters that India now has the capability to develop its own uranium ore mines instead of depending on imports.
He said nuclear power generation in the country will reach 60,000 megawatts by the year 2050.
He described the uranium processed in Thummalapalle as one of the best quality uranium available in the world.
The newly-commissioned plant has a capacity of mining and processing 3,000 tonnes of uranium a day.
Banerjee said a second plant would soon be set up at Thummalapalle.
While allaying apprehensions of any adverse impact on people's health and the environment, he said all safety measures had been taken. He also said local people would get employment opportunities in the plant.
India last year started getting imported uranium to fuel its nuclear power plants from different countries in the world and this mine could be a significant step in its quest for energy security.
The official expects Thummalapalle mine could fuel 25 percent of India's nuclear plants.
The UCIL operates six underground mines, one open cast mine and two processing plants in Jharkhand.
The Andhra Pradesh project is the first one to be commissioned outside Jharkhand, which has been the sole uranium producing centre so far, the official said.
Thummalapalle has uranium deposits of over 60,000 tonnes and continuous exploration has shown promise of further reserves. Last year, the UCIL had estimated the uranium deposits there at 49,000 tonnes with reserves of almost 150,000 tonnes - ten-fold of the originally estimated 15,000 tonnes.
'This has the potential of making it one of the most significant uranium reserves in the world,' the official said.
With the new reserves, India can run 10,000 MW nuclear power plants on its own, Banerjee had said last July.
The Thummalapalle project, in which Rs.1,900 crore is being invested in two phases, will produce 3,000 tons of ore daily in the first phase and go up gradually, while the second phase would produce 1,500 tons per day.
The Thummalapalle mine, said to be the most modern underground mine in the country, deploys load haul dump units, low profile dump trucks and the ore will be transported outside by conveyor belts.
A processing plant has been constructed next to the mine which would use alkali pressure leaching process to produce sodium di-uranate from the ore.
The plant encompasses high level of automation which would enable precise control of process parameters, ensuring high degrees of efficiency, besides highest levels of safety and environment protection in the project, said the official.
It was in 2007 that then Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy had laid the foundation stone for the plant in his Pulivendula assembly constituency.
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