Monday, June 9, 2008

India' nuclear sham

(Goats grazing at a football field in Jharkhand's Chatigocha village; in the background, the wall of a "tailings pond" -- waste dump -- of the Jaduguda Uranium mines.)

Nearly three years ago, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stood on the lawns of the White House with President George W. Bush, announcing a civil nuclear deal with the US, there was another country he could have turned to for fuel for India’s N-power plants: India.

Even as it scouts for nuclear fuel from the US and elsewhere, India has been sitting on massive, untapped reserves of uranium, hundreds of tonnes of which have been discovered over the past couple of years — adding to the over 1 lakh tonnes already identified in Jharkhand, Meghalaya, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.

Together, these uranium resources would be enough to run all of India’s current and planned nuclear power plants for their entire lifetime of 40 years. In the context of the bitter political debate in India over taking N-fuel from the US, the irony is inescapable.

India’s atomic energy establishment has done next to nothing to tap deposits identified up to 15 years ago. Mining is yet to begin at several sites explored, identified and handed through the 1990s by the Atomic Minerals Directorate (AMD), the government’s uranium exploration arm, to the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL).

Read the full story and other related text here in the Hindustan Times, where this piece first appeared.

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(All photos by the author, except when credit mentioned otherwise)