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Mill to process natural uranium ore commissioned

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BOOSTING PRODUCTION: A section of the uranium mill at Turamdih in Jharkand which was inaugurated by Anil Kakodkar, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, on Monday.
BOOSTING PRODUCTION: A section of the uranium mill at Turamdih in Jharkand which was inaugurated by Anil Kakodkar, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, on Monday.

T.S. Subramanian

Turamdih mill situated in Jharkhand can process 3,000 tonnes of ore a day

CHENNAI: The natural uranium crunch that hit India’s indigenously-built Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) and brought down their capacity factor will ease with the commissioning on Monday, for trial run, a mill at Turamdih in Jharkhand for processing natural uranium ore. Anil Kakodkar, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, inaugurated the mill. He opened an open-cast mine at Banduhurang for production of natural uranium ore. Besides, he laid the foundation for constructing an underground mine at Mohuldih for excavating uranium ore. The mill and the mine have been built by the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), a public sector undertaking of the Department of Atomic Energy.

According to Ramendra Gupta, Chairman and Managing Director, UCIL, the mill at Turamdih could process 3,000 tonnes of natural uranium ore a day. The existing mill at Jaduguda, also in Jharkhand, processed 2,190 tonnes a day. Thus, the two mills could together process about 5,200 tonnes of uranium ore a day. It would take a month for the operations at the mill at Turamdih to stabilise. “We have a centralised control room and drum filters in place of belt filters at Turamdih. So recovery of uranium ore will be better,” said Mr. Gupta from Jaduguda.

The process

It is a state-of-the-art, high-end capacity plant. Through a series of chemical processing methods in these two mills, uranium is obtained from the ore and then converted into yellow cake. At the Nuclear Fuel Complex, Hyderabad, the yellow cake is fabricated into fuel rods which become the fuel for the 15 PHWRs operating in the country now. These 15 reactors need 540 tonnes of natural uranium a year but the production till a few weeks ago stood at 280 tonnes of natural uranium a year. This led to the capacity factor of the PHWRs dropping from about 90 per cent in 2002-03 to 65 per cent now. The situation will ease with the commissioning of the mill at Turamdih and the mine at Banduhurang.

The mine at Banduhurang will produce 2,250 tonnes of natural uranium ore a day and the mine was built in two years at a cost of Rs. 95 crores. The underground mining project at Mohuldih in Seraikela-Kharswan district in Jharkhand was part of the UCIL’s expansion programme. This mine will produce 1,50,000 tonnes of ore a year. It will be built in 48 months at a cost of Rs. 90 crores. Construction of a mine at Bagjata in Jharkhand is under way and production of natural uranium ore there will begin in 2008.

Mr. Gupta said the UCIL started constructing an exploratory mine from June 18, 2007 at Gogi near Yadgir in Karnataka for excavating uranium ore. V.P. Raja, Additional Secretary, DAE and S.K. Malhotra, Head, Public Awareness Division, DAE, took part in the function.


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