Estimates of reserves revised to 49,000 tonnes
The Tummalappalle uranium mine in the Cuddapah district of Andhra Pradesh has the potential to become the largest uranium mine in the world, according to the Department of Atomic Energy.
The earlier estimated reserves at the mine were 14,000 tonnes, but it has since been revised to 49,000 tonnes, said Dr Srikumar Banerjee, Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy, on Monday, during an interaction with the media at a function to mark the start of construction of two nuclear-power reactors at Rawatbhata in Rajasthan.
Dr Banerjee said the survey work was ongoing and that the reserve estimates may even go up to 1.5 lakh tonnes, he said.
India's total estimated uranium reserves at present are in the range of about 1.75 lakh tonnes, Dr Banerjee said
Initial excavation at the Tummalappalle mine, spread over an area of 35 km, began in 2007, and the actual mining of the ore could commence by December this year, he said.
Dr S K Jain, Chairman and Managing Director of Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL), said that the survey undertaken by the Atomic Minerals Division of the DAE showed that the mine could have the largest deposit of uranium.
At present, India only has only one functional mine in Jaduguda in Jharkhand, which is managed by the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL), a sister concern of the DAE.
New deposits have, however, been found in Meghalaya, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, but there is opposition from local residents in Meghalaya over the mining of ore due to environmental concerns, he said.
At the Tummalapalle mine, UCIL would start a mill to process the uranium ore into yellow cake by 2012.
The ore in yellow cake form is converted into fuel bundles and fed into the nuclear power reactor.
The Rawatbhata nuclear power plant, home to six rectors of 220 MW capacity each, will now get two 700 MW reactors by 2016.
Pouring of concrete for the reactor numbers seven and eight marks the beginning of construction, Dr Jain said.
NPCIL has designed the new reactors, based on the Pressurized Heavy Water Technology, by scaling up its 540-MW reactors currently under operation at the Tarapur atomic power plant in Maharashtra.
The 700-MW reactors have been designed with the latest safety features, such as passive cooling systems, and would not need human operators to ensure its safety (in case of an accident), Dr Jain said.
The construction of what will be India's 25th atomic power plant comes in the backdrop of an earthquake-and-tsunami triggered crisis at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which resulted in governments worldwide rethinking their nuclear power policies.