Sitting on arguably the world’s largest uranium reserves, Andhra Pradesh will soon join the uranium mining map, with work at Tummalapalle plant set to start in a couple of months. According to Mr N.M. Bahl, head of the Hyderabad office of Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), work is going on at a brisk pace at the uranium mining plant in Kadapa district. “We are planning to start mining operations by March-end or early April,” he said. “The plant will initially process about 3,000 tonnes of uranium ore. As it expands operation, capacity of another 1,500 tonnes will be added.”
With about 1.5 lakh tonnes in Tummapalle village alone, Andhra Pradesh has rich uranium reserves, and uranium has also been found at Lambapur-Peddagattu in Nalgonda district. While UCIL has proposed a mining plant at Lambapur-Peddagattu as well, the project is embroiled in controversy with strong opposition from green groups. When both mines operate in full swi-ng, experts say Andhra Pradesh will meet about 25 per cent of the country’s nuclear energy needs.
According to experts, Tummalapalle is the foremost uranium mine in the country after Jaduguda, Jharkhand. But with uranium reserves fast depleting at Jaduguda, the Department of Atomic Energy is concentrating on Andhra Pradesh for uranium ore. According to officials, the mine at Tummalapalle is ready for operation, with work on the processing plant set to be completed in the next few weeks.
Once the processing plant is ready, the plant at Tummalapalle will formally get underway, making it the only uranium-processing plant in South India. India plans to generate 20,000 MWe of nuclear energy in the next eight years to meet the ever-increasing power demand. Tummalapalle plant is specially designed, as conventional processing of leaching ore with sulfuric acid does not work well with uranium ore present in Kadapa district, says experts.
The ore at Tummalapalle being low grade, exte-nsive research has been done at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research and UCIL to tap it to the fullest.