Australia and India Commit to New Nuclear Energy BFF Relationship

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Yesterday, Sohrab Darabshaw explained how Australia and India have agreed to a new nuclear and coal energy supply pact. This story explains how the two nations plan to work together toward supplying their energy needs.

All uranium is welcome for India, which currently has 20 small nuclear reactors within six plants but operates only a few. The government’s stated goal is to raise its nuclear energy capacity to 63,000 million watts by 2032.

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But a section of the Australian media and even the international press have launched a scathing attack against Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott over his uranium supply pact with India. The Courier Mail, for example, did not pull any punches when one of its analysis pieces said, “It is foolish and dangerous to sell uranium to a country that is actively expanding its nuclear weapons arsenal and refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Still, others have dubbed Abbott’s overtures to India as pragmatic. A report in The Guardian said the Abbott government wanted to capitalize on trade opportunities with the new administration of Indian PM NarendraModi, who had made energy security “a key plank of his reform platform.” It quoted the Australian PM as lamenting that his country had not invested enough time and energy in the subcontinent compared with the markets of north Asia.

Australia’s top trading partner today is China, but Abbott made it clear he wanted to finalize negotiations for a free trade deal with India by the end of 2016.

India already buys almost $5 billion worth of Australian coal every year. Weeks before Abbott’s India visit, as reported by MetalMiner Australia had approved the approximate $15.5-billion (AUS $16.5 billion) Carmichael coal mining project in Queensland for the Adani Group to develop, a project that could yield up to 60 million tons of coal per year, but only after imposing “strict conditions to protect the environment.”

That move, too, had raised the hackles of many Australians. However, there’s no doubt that there’s new found love between the two nations on the trade front. Australian state Queensland, for example, is soliciting investments from India for mining uranium and coal to enhance economic ties between the two sides. Uranium mining here opened up recently after a ban of 25 years. A report in India’s The Hindu BusinessLine quoted Queensland Trade and Investment Commissioner (South Asia) Parag Shirname as saying a handful of Indian private sector players had expressed interest in taking mining licenses in Queensland, which has one of the largest coal and uranium reserves in the world. The province has even offered more coal mines to Indian miners.

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