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Russia Delivers First Batch of Nuclear Fuel Pellets to India

TVEL-russiaRussia’s TVEL, a subsidiary of state-controlled nuclear power company Atomenergoprom, has delivered its first shipment of uranium fuel pellets to India for Indian heavy-water reactors on 10 April, 2009, under a new contract.

This followed the arrival of 60 tonnes of uranium ore at the Nuclear Fuel Complex on March 31st, 2009 from France marked the beginning of long term supply of imported fuel to the ambitious nuclear power programme of the Department of Atomic Energy.

“Thirty metric tons of pellets were delivered to the nuclear fuel complex in Hyderabad for further conversion into fuel for the Rajasthan nuclear power plant,” the company said.

In line with a $700 million contract signed February 11 with New Delhi on fuel supplies to Indian nuclear power plants, Russia is to supply India with 2,000 metric tons of uranium pellets.

The fuel contract is another step in burgeoning nuclear cooperation between Russia and India. On December 5, 2008, Moscow signed an agreement with Delhi to build an additional four reactors for the Kudankulam nuclear power plant, where it is finishing two reactors under an earlier contract, and construct new nuclear plants in India.

TVEL is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of nuclear fuel, which it supplies to 73 commercial (17 percemnt of the global market) and 30 research reactors in 13 countries.

India has a long-established nuclear power program with plans to grow its current 3779 MWe of nuclear capacity to 20,000 MWe by 2020 and to supply 25 percent of its electricity from nuclear power by 2050. However, for over 30 years its was excluded from international nuclear technology and materials trade because of its status as a non-signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. With only limited indigenous uranium resources, a lack of fuel has long been a problem for the country’s nuclear power plants.

Following the lifting of trade restrictions in 2008, a $700 million contract signed in February 2009 will see TVEL supply low enriched fuel pellets for two boiling water reactors (BWR) at the Tarapur nuclear power plant as well as the PHWRs. It will also supply fuel to India for the two Russian-designed VVER-1000 reactors being built at Kudankulam. French nuclear company Areva has also signed a long-term deal to supply uranium for India’s reactors.

Acid plant for Priargunsky

Meanwhile, Russia’s biggest uranium mining company has completed a new sulphuric acid plant. ARMZ subsidiary Priargun Mining Chemical Combine’s new $30 million, 180,000 tonne per year plant, is “one of the biggest sulphuric acid plants in Siberia and the Far East”, according to AtomEnergoProm. The plant is due to be officially opened in June 2009 and replaces a facility built in 1976 which, according to AtomEnergoProm, had “exhausted its resources”. Sulphuric acid is used to leach uranium from ore.

Priargun Mining Chemical Combine – often referred to as Priargunsky – operates in the Chita region of south-eastern Siberia. With its current output of around 3000 tonnes of uranium per year, the company produces the lion’s share of Russia’s domestically produced uranium. Russian production is currently around 3500 tonnes but ARMZ, the holding company which manages all Russian uranium mining companies including Priargunsky, has ambitious plans to exploit the country’s uranium reserves, tripling production to 10,300 tU per year by 2015, and aiming for 20,000 tU per year by 2024.