Within a week of signing an agreement with Frances Areva for the supply of 300 tons of uranium,India on Wednesday moved further ahead towards ensuring fuel security for its nuclear power plants,finalising two purchase agreements with Russia for long term supply of uranium.
The Department of Atomic Energy placed an order for 2,000 tonnes of natural uranium pellets for its various Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) with Russias TVEL,one of the largest suppliers of uranium in the world and a company that has supplied fuel for Indian reactors in the past as well.
Additionally,India also ordered for about 60 tonnes of low enriched uranium (LEU) pellets for its two boiling water reactor units in Tarapur being operated by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL). This is a repeat order with Russia which has supplied LEU for the BWRs on two earlier occasions.
The purchase orders are a consequence of the civil nuclear agreement that was signed by the two countries during Russian President Dmitri Medvedevs visit to India in December 2008. The orders were signed by president of TVEL Y Olenin and DAE Director of Purchase and Stores H C Soni at the DAE headquarters in Mumbai.
The fresh orders come just a week after NPCIL signed a commercial pact with Frances Areva for the building of two nuclear reactors in Jaitapur in Maharashtra and the supply of 300 tonnes of uranium.
The orders,which are likely to materialise in the next couple of months,will bridge the huge gap between the demand and supply of fuel for the Indian nuclear power plants,many of which have been running at well below half of their operating capacities for over a year now.
The latest steps towards acquiring fuel from abroad have been enabled by the unique waiver granted to India by the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2008,allowing the country to engage in nuclear commerce after a gap of 34 years.
Following the waiver,India has signed civilian nuclear cooperation agreements with France,Russia and Kazakhstan and has been exploring the import of uranium from all these places and beyond.
TVEL,which supplies fuel to Russian and many other nuclear reactors in the world,had in May 2008 provided uranium for one of the soon-to-be-commissioned units at the Kudankulam nuclear power station in Tamil Nadu. Two units of 1,000 MWe each are under construction at Kudankulam in collaboration with Russia,which is also responsible for the life-time supplies of fuel for these reactors. NPCIL currently runs 17 nuclear power stations with an installed capacity of 4,120 MWe. Five reactors with a total capacity of 2,660 MWe are under construction.