Mumbai, April 20 (IANS) A uranium ore mine and processing plant in Andhra Pradesh was commissioned Friday which officials say could become one of the most significant uranium reserves in the world.
It was operationalised by Atomic Energy Commission chairman Srikumar Banerjee.
India last year started getting imported uranium to fuel its nuclear power plants from different countries in the world and this mine could be a significant step in its quest for energy security.
The plant, owned by the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL), is located in Tummalapalle in YSR district of the state. UCIL operates six underground mines, one opencast mine and two processing plants in Jharkhand.
The Andhra Pradesh project is the first one to be commissioned outside Jharkhand, which has been the sole uranium producing centre so far, the official said.
Tummalapalle has uranium deposits of over 60,000 tons and continuous exploration has shown promise of further reserves. Last year, the UCIL had estimated the uranium deposits there at 49,000 tons with reserves of almost 150,000 tons - ten-fold of the originally estimated 15,000 tons.
"This has the potential of making it one of the most significant uranium reserves in the world," the official said.
With the new reserves, India can run 10,000 MW nuclear power plants on its own, Banerjee had said last July.
The Tummalapalle project, in which Rs.1,900 crore is being invested in two phases, will produce 3,000 tons of ore daily in the first phase and go up gradually, while the second phase would produce 1,500 tons per day.
The Tummapalle mine, said to be the most modern underground mine in the country, deploys load haul dump units, low profile dump trucks and the ore will be transported outside by conveyor belts.
A processing plant has been constructed next to the mine which would use alkali pressure leaching process to produce sodium di-uranate from the ore.
The plant encompasses high level of automation which would enable precise control of process parameters, ensuring high degrees of efficiency, besides highest levels of safety and environment protection in the project, said the official.