Nuclear Fuel

The only commercial applications are in nuclear energy production. India does maintain a “strategic” program but it is isolated from the civilian program and not open to foreign involvement.

Mining

India’s domestic production of uranium is limited and proven reserves of about 61,000 tons of recoverable metal across 10 of its 28 states.  While it has large reserves of thorium, perhaps 225,000 tons or more, in the form of monazite sands, there is no commercial application for thorium-based power just yet. A company owned by India’s Department of Atomic Energy  the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL), operates  mines in Jaduguda, Bhatin, Narwapahar, Turamdih and Domiasiat  (Meghalaya) with a current annual revenue of about $75 million in 2010.

In 2011, media reports indicated a major uranium find in Tummalapalle in the Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh; initial estimates ranged from 49,000 tons to as high as 150,000 tons of the mineral.

The mined natural uranium is processed as yellow cake and sent to the Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) at Hyderabad for fabrication of PHWR fuel.  While mining growth is somewhat constrained by sensitivity to tribal populations, the demand for uranium mining equipment should continue to rise significantly in years to come.

India has bought uranium from France and Russia already, and is now keen to acquire additional fuel from other locations.  Investments in Uranium mines, juniors and exploration rights in other countries may soon be conceivable.

Fabrication

In 1971, the Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) was set up at Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. It converts yellow cake into the nuclear grade uranium  also performs fabrication of fuel bundles.

NFC also manufactures seamless stainless steel and alloy steel tubes for various engineering industries as well as ultra-pure materials for electronic industry. As a part of the augmentation of its nuclear fuel and zircaloy components production capability, NFC has commissioned plants for the manufacture of uranium oxide fuel, uranium fuel bundle, and zircalloy fabrication.

In order to service its sole boiling water reactor, in Tarapur near Mumbai, a Advanced Fuel Fabrication Facility to make mixed oxide (MOX) fuel assemblies was established on site.

Reprocessing

Like France, the UK, Russian and Japan, India does re-process nuclear fuel. It  has developed some degree of vitrification capability via its Waste Immobilisation Plant (WIP) in Tarapur. Another reprocessing plant at Kalpakkam supplies the forthcoming fast breeder reactor. A plant built at Trombay may also be operational. Vitrified waste is stored in a solid storage surveillance facility for  30 years prior to its disposal in deep geological formations. The first such disposals may occur in 2029.

In March 2010 the United States and India reached an agreement on the reprocessing of U.S.-obligated spent nuclear fuel in India. This reprocessing agreement allows India to separate plutonium from spent fuel from Indian reactors containing U.S.-origin nuclear material. In the past, only Japan and the member states of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) had been granted this consent. Both the reprocessing facilities and the nuclear material will be kept under IAEA safeguards and limited to peaceful uses.

Vitrified waste is stored in a specially designed solid storage surveillance facility for about 30 years prior to its disposal in deep geological formation.

Enrichment

Like Argentina, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, India operates some degree of uranium enrichment facilities. India is believed to use gas centrifuges at a facility in Rattehalli, Mysore.  Western sources believe that this facility may not currently have a civilian purpose. Enrichment is not a commercial opportunity at this time.

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