[India] Mining of atomic minerals to be opened up to private sector – by Gireesh Chandra Prasad (Live Mint.com – June 15, 2016)


The government, like it did with hydrocarbons, is set to open up exploration and production of atomic minerals to private mining companies.

It is part of a strategy to increase domestic supplies of fuel as the country readies to expand its nuclear power generation capacity, Balvinder Kumar, secretary in the ministry of mines, said.

India currently has a 5.7 gigawatts (GW) nuclear power generation capacity, which barely accounts for 2% of the total power capacity but is expected to witness a sharp increase over the next 16 years as the country moves away from fossil fuels for its energy needs.

The Department of Atomic Energy’s target is to have 63GW of nuclear power capacity by 2032. Fossil fuels account for 71% of the electricity output and the government wants to bring it down to less than 60% by 2030 as per its climate change action plan.

The proposed six nuclear reactors, for which talks between the Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd and US-based Westinghouse Electric Corp. are likely to be concluded by 2017, will alone more than double the country’s nuclear power output in the short term.

Kumar said rules for opening up exploration of atomic minerals to the private sector will be brought out shortly. Out of the country’s 1,400 sq. km of atomic mineral-rich area, about 1,000 sq. km along the coast—where minerals are available below specified thresholds—will be offered for prospecting and production through competitive bids.

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