No uranium supplies from Australia

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K. Venugopal

Canberra, March 1

Whether India is able to do a deal with the US this week during the Bush visit and get international sanctions lifted on its nuclear energy programme, Australia will not be supplying natural uranium to fuel Indian reactors.

Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, told visiting Indian journalists here today that as long as India did not sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, it would not be able to supply uranium. "The foundation of our policy is that we export uranium only to countries that have signed the NPT," he maintained, adding that he did not expect India to sign the treaty any time soon.

Australia has about 40 per cent of the world's uranium resources that can be extracted cheaply. It is also one of the largest exporters, the annual revenue being $370 million. It is currently working out a long-term contract to supply uranium to China, which plans to increase its nuclear power generating capacity five-fold over the next 15 years. Its current capacity is 6,600 MW.

India's nuclear progamme has been stunted partly because of the shortage of indigenously available natural uranium. As against a targeted capacity of 10,000 MW, only about 3,310 MW has been set up over the past 35 years. Once plants under construction at four sites across the country come on stream by December 2008, this capacity is expected to double.

The need to secure additional supplies has prompted the Government to look overseas and for ways to end the international standoff that has isolated the nuclear programme.

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(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 2, 2006)
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