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Uranium Resource Development and Sustainability—Indian Case Study

Chapter

Abstract

Uranium, a highly concentrated source of energy is the basic fuel for nuclear power. Its mining, production, and use in generation of nuclear power, especially in a populous country like India helps in protecting the Earth from irreversible environmental damage—a giant step towards a sustainable development process. India’s nuclear programme is based on unique sequential three stages—called “closed fuel cycle,” aiming for optimal utilization of the indigenous atomic mineral resource (modest uranium and abundant thorium). The closed fuel cycle where the spent fuel of one stage is reprocessed to produce fuel for the next stage multiplies the energy potential of the fuel and therefore acknowledged as sustainable development compliant. Low grade narrow vein uranium deposits of India do not lend themselves for development on plain commercial considerations. The integrated economic model of nuclear power production programme of the country facilitates the uranium mining sector to adopt higher level of safety standards and environmental measures through application of technology implementing sustainable global practices. The technologies for uranium ore mining in India are appropriately chosen with an aim to achieve minimum disturbance to the topography of the area, minimize the generation of waste rock, use of the waste rock in underground, reuse and recycle of the liquid waste, continuous restoration of the voids created by underground mining, use of electro-hydraulic underground equipment in place of diesel powered ones, etc. These help in maintaining the operations within the absorptive capacity of local sinks for wastes. They contribute significantly towards achieving the goal of sustainable development. The uranium ore processing technologies in India are constantly upgraded with utmost consideration on maximizing the recovery, minimizing the discharge of effluents, and maximizing the recovery of by-products. Adopting a shorter processing route, measures to maximize the reuse of water, producing environmentally benign product, etc., are some of the distinctive features exemplifying values of sustainability. Management of uranium mill tailings is a matter of concern all over the world. In India, the technology for management of tailings has been constantly upgraded in line with the international practices. Tailing ponds have been designed with improved floor lining to prevent downward movement of effluent and monitoring mechanism to maintain the permissible discharge quality of water. Eco-restoration of the filled tailings pond is carried out with appropriate thick layer of soil which arrests radon emanation. Specified varieties of nonedible grass are grown which control soil erosion and do not cause radioactive incursion into the food chain through grazing animals. Mining industry, in general provides scope for growth of secondary industries in the neighborhood. Uranium industry in India has always been in the forefront in implementation of new technology in underground mining. Sustainability of these new technologies has been made possible by local entrepreneurs who progressively develop the competency to support need of critical components enhancing the skill base of the community. A skilled and trained society is thus created around the uranium mining centers of the country. Support for skill development and education to students in the area around uranium projects is considered very vital for integrated development programme of Indian uranium sector. Such programmes are initiated before the start of mining which helps in avoiding large-scale influx of trained manpower from other parts of the country. Displacement and disruption of settlements around mining sites is generally seen as a major cause of resentment in the communities. Balancing the sustainability of the community around uranium production facilities of India through appropriate mix of technology, environmental measures, social harmony, finance and governance is the hallmark of the growth of the sector.

Keywords

Uranium Energy source Closed fuel cycle Low grade uranium deposits Mining Uranium tailings management Skill development Sustainability 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The author wishes to acknowledge Chairman and Managing Director, Uranium Corporation of India Ltd. to give permission to publish the document.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Uranium Corporation of India LtdJamshedpurIndia

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