Rohil Rajasthan Uranium Mines
The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) is all set to start the country’s fourth uranium ore project.
Mining of Uranium ore from Rohili mines in Rajasthan
• DAE’s Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMDER) continues to carry out extensive radiometric, geochemical and geophysical surveys across India to scour for new uranium deposits.
• The newest discoveries of possible uranium mine sites are in Naktu, Uttar Pradesh and potential deposits in Betul, Madhya Pradesh.
The policy and legislation relating to Major minerals are managed by the Ministry of Mines But Uranium being an atomic mineral is managed by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).
Uranium is used as a fuel for nuclear power reactors for electricity generation, in the manufacture of radio isotopes for medical applications and in nuclear science research.
- Uranium is a silvery-gray metallic radioactive chemical element
- Uranium, thorium, and potassium are the main elements contributing to natural terrestrial radioactivity.
- Uranium has the chemical symbol U and atomic number 92.
Uranium isotopes in natural uranium are
All uranium isotopes are radioactive and fissionable.
But only 235U is fissile (will support a neutron-mediated chain reaction).
India’s Uranium sources
- Commercial extraction is possible only in locations where the proportion of Uranium is adequate.
- There are very few such locations.
- India imports thousands of tonnes of uranium from Russia, Kazakhstan, France, Australia and Canada.
Existing uranium mines in India
- Jaduguda (1968)
- Bhatin (1987)
- Narwapahar (1995)
- Turamdih (2003)
The new Rajasthan source
• The first reports of traces of uranium and other mineral deposits from the Aravalli mountain ranges of the area came in 1998.
• This prompted UCIL to initiate further explorations from 1999.
• In 2009, that the UCIL identified up to a depth of 100 meter a deep underground mine of uranium.
• The deposit is estimated at 10,000 tones, is spread across 22 hectares of land in the Sikar district.
• The Rohili project is expected to yield uranium ore for over two decades.
Has the production started?
• The Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), is currently working on war-footing to construct new tunnel shafts to source out the uranium ore.
• The tunnel work is estimated to take around 22 months to complete.
• Detailed Project Report (DPR) is being made to execute the other portions of the operation.
• The entire project is estimated to cost around Rs 6,000 crore.
• The UCIL plans to automate all strenuous mining activities, avoiding direct handling of radioactive ore at every stage of operation.
• The uranium ore sourced from Rohili will be taken to National Fuel Complex** for further processing.
Why is Uranium ore dangerous?
The uranium ore in India are generally of low grade, which necessitates production and processing of large quantity of ore.
When uranium ore is extracted from the ground, 99.28% of the mined ore is treated as waste as the uranium isotopes used in nuclear power plants mainly is uranium-235, leaving behind the major portion of the ore which constitutes of uranium-236 and uranium-238 as well as some other components.
• This waste (also referred to as tailings) is then neutralised with lime and carried through pipelines to a tailing pond.
• This results in generation of large volume of solid waste and effluent.
India’s Nuclear power generation
• India operates 22 nuclear reactors in 7 power plants, eight of which are fueled by indigenous uranium.
• Fourteen reactors are under international safeguards and use imported uranium.
• Six units – four indigenously designed pressurised heavy water reactors, a fast breeder reactor and a Russian-designed pressurised water reactor – are currently under construction.
• Construction is planned to begin on 19 further units within the next few years, including ten indigenously designed PHWRs which are scheduled to start up by 2031
• In March 2018, the government stated that nuclear capacity would fall well short of its 63 GWe target outlined in the 12th five-year plan for 2012-17.
• The total nuclear capacity is likely to be about 22.5 GWe by the year 2031