The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd. has recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd. for cooperation in uranium exploration and development.
The MoU was signed in New Delhi by ONGC Chairman and Managing Director R. S. Sharma and UCIL Chairman and Managing Director Ramendra Gupta, in the presence of Dr. Anil Kakodkar, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy.
The aim of the agreement is to exploit the complementary expertise of the two public enterprises. ONGC has rich experience in hydrocarbon exploration. UCIL, run by the Department of Atomic Energy, is in the forefront of uranium mining and processing, backed by the Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and research headed by Dr. Anjan Chaki. UCIL is actively exploring possibilities of acquiring uranium properties and exploration licences in several countries.
UCIL has been doing prospecting for uranium in the states of Meghalaya, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, but it has been stymied by environmental concerns and non-availability of sophisticated mining equipment. Currently the country depends almost entirely on the Jaduguda mines in the Singhbum district of Jharkhand, which cannot supply the quantities required to run India’s nuclear power plants at full capacity. India’s uranium production is very small compared with countries such as Canada, Australia and Kazhakastan. Earlier this month, India and Russia signed an agreement for the Russian supply of uranium to Indian nuclear power plants, which is expected to jack up capacity utilization of existing Indian nuclear power plants to 90 per cent from the current low level of 40 to 60 per cent (a result of a uranium shortage). The agreement, signed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ties up the supply of 2,000 tonnes of uranium to India. India has also signed up France for the supply of 300 tonnes of uranium for two proposed 1,000-MW light water reactors to be built by Areva, the French nuclear power equipment company.