India’s uranium-starved civilian nuclear reactors may soon start receiving Canadian yellowcake. Currently, uranium from Russia and Kazakhstan meets 40 percent of civilian nuclear needs while remainder comes from domestic sources.
However, a dwindling domestic uranium supply, because of India’s inability to open new mines in the face of local protests and an ambitious plan to expand the share of nuclear power in its energy mix, has meant its civilian nuclear reactors could face shortages.
The Canadian decision to supply uranium to India, therefore, comes at an important time for New Delhi. The India-Canada Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement was signed in 2010 but an ‘Appropriate Arrangement Agreement’ to enable Canada sell its uranium to India could be signed only in April, 2013. The agreement came into force in end-September after Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid’s meeting with Canadian Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver on September 23 in Ottawa as part of the inaugural India-Canada Strategic Dialogue.
Sources in South Block said both New Delhi and Ottawa are keen that the first shipment of Canadian uranium reaches Indian shores at the earliest. India requires three times its current uranium consumption to feed its 12 new reactors by 2021. Canada had stopped civil nuclear cooperation with India after New Delhi detonated a nuclear device in 1974, which Canada believed was constructed using a Canadian nuclear reactor.
Canadian nuclear industry supports 30,000 direct jobs and exports USD 1 billion worth of uranium annually. India is expected to purchase USD 650 million worth of Canadian uranium annually. Ottawa plans to treble its uranium exports by exporting uranium to India and China to increase earnings and jobs. The first shipment of Canadian uranium to China reached Shanghai this week after the two countries signed a supplementary protocol in July, 2012 to their Canada-China Nuclear Cooperation Agreement of 1994.
India has civilian nuclear agreements with France, Mongolia, Argentina, Canada, South Korea, Russia, Kazakhstan, the US and Namibia. An Indian company also has such an agreement with Niger. New Delhi hopes to soon have an agreement with Tashkent to procure 2,000 tons of uranium from Uzbekistan, annually. Negotiations are on with Australia for a civilian nuclear agreement with the next phase of consultations scheduled for December. Australia has 40 percent of the world’s uranium reserves.