Kazakhstan will provide India with much-needed uranium to fuel its nuclear power plants under an agreement on cooperation in civil nuclear energy signed by the two countries.
During a four-day visit to India by Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed in New Delhi on 24 January between KazAtomProm and Nuclear Power Corp of India Ltd (NPCIL). The MoU was signed by Moukhtar Dzhakishev, president of KazAtomProm, and Sreyans Kumar Jain, chairman of NPCIL.
In a statement, KazAtomProm said: "The signed MoU reflects the interest of the two companies in joint cooperation on a wide variety of nuclear energy subjects, including mining for natural uranium, deliveries of Kazakh natural uranium products for Indian nuclear industry, and personnel training."
It added, "The document also states KazAtomProm's expressed interest in working towards a feasibility study on the subject of nuclear power projects in Kazakhstan on the basis of Indian pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR) designs."
Speaking of the agreement, Dzhakishev said that "the signing of this mutually beneficial memorandum comes at an important time and is in line with the countries' intentions to expand the scope of business and political cooperation."
Jain commented, "The memorandum is a result of mutual commitment to begin thorough discussions on long-term strategic relationship."
India has been largely excluded from trade in nuclear plant or materials for over 30 years because of its status outside the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). This has not stopped it from developing a nuclear power programme of its own. With 17 nuclear reactors in operation, and six under construction, it plans to have 20,000 MWe of nuclear capacity on line by 2020 and to supply 25% of electricity from nuclear power by 2050. However, a lack of indigenous uranium reserves, as well as its isolation from nuclear industry trade, has hampered the country's nuclear energy sector.
After India finalised a wide-ranging safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) decided in September 2008 to permit nuclear plant or materials to be transferred to India. Since then, several cooperation agreements with India have been signed, including by France, the USA, Russia and Canada.