After two years of negotiation, Australia looks set to supply uranium to India. Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Wednesday that he hoped to sign a civil nuclear deal during his visit to India this week that will allow the sale of uranium for peaceful power generation.
"I am hoping to sign a nuclear cooperation agreement that will enable uranium sales by Australia to India," Abbott told the Australian parliament.
Work on an India-Australia agreement began in 2012 when Australia, which has 40 percent of the world's known uranium reserves, lifted a long-standing ban on selling uranium to energy-hungry India.
The country faces chronic shortages of electricity, with a quarter of the 1.2 billion population having little or no access to power. Two thirds of India’s electricity supply is generated by burning coal, which is a heavy polluter, and it is keen to shift the balance towards nuclear over the next few years.
Canberra had previously refused to sell nuclear material to India because it had not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). But India’s landmark nuclear agreement with the U.S. in 2008 prompted Australia to overturn its long-standing ban on uranium sales to India.
"The negotiations and work that's gone on between authorities in India and Australia have gone on for some years to develop a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement which meets the international requirements and we are satisfied, our officials are satisfied, that all the requirements have been met," Trade Minister Andrew Robb told ABC Radio.
Washington’s civil nuclear deal with New Delhi allows India to import U.S. nuclear fuel and technology without giving up its military nuclear programme. India is seeking similar agreements with Japan and Australia.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet Abbott this week, who will be accompanied by a 31-member business delegation that includes Toro Energy chief executive Vanessa Guthrie.
"It (the civil nuclear deal) would be a similar agreement to what Canada currently has in place with India and other countries as well," she told reporters.
The new NDA administration is keen on revitalising the sputtering India economy, for which a stable power supply is crucial.
According to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India, the country operates 20 mostly small reactors at six sites with a capacity of 4,780 MW, a mere 2 percent of its total power capacity. The government hopes to increase its nuclear capacity to 63,000 MW by 2032, by adding nearly 30 reactors at an estimated cost of $85 billion.