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Swamy refutes DAE claims

Swamy refutes DAE claims

Tuesday, 30 October 2012 00:07
Kumar chellappan | CHENNAI





The controversy over the indiscriminate looting of rare earth minerals including the Thorium-rich Monazite from the Indian coast line  has taken a new turn with Dr Subramanian Swamy, president, Janata Party, questioning the validity of the statements issued by the Department of Atomic Energy. The DAE in its statement had termed the reports about Thorium looting as baseless.

In a letter addressed to Dr RK Sinha, chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, Dr Swamy expressed shock over the government’s decision removing rare earth minerals like ilmenite, zircon and leucoxene from prescribed substances to open general license. “This has been done under international pressure and that too after the signing of the Indo-US civil nuclear deal,” he said in the letter.

Dr Swamy said that the DAE’s version that only 30 per cent of Monazite reserves in the country was mineable is in contradiction to what V Narayanasamy, the minister  of state in charge of the PMO told the Lok Sabha on August 10, 2011. “The Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD), a constituent of Department of Atomic Energy has established the presence of 10.70 million tonnes of Monazite in the country, which contains 9,63,000 tonnes of Thorium Oxide (ThO2). Indian Monazite contains about 9-10% of Thorium Oxide and about 8,46,477 tonnes of Thorium metal can be obtained from 9,63,000 tonnes of Thorium Oxide which will be used for future programmes of DAE,” Narayanasamy had told the House.  

Dr Swamy pointed out to the DAE chairman  that the minister’s statement in the Parliament revealed that 9,63,000 tonnes of Thorium Oxide would  be usable for future programmes of DAE. “The correct situation of stockpiles which could be anticipated to be built up for the programme of DAE needs to be carefully monitored by the authorities responsible for conserving Nuclear Fuel Complexes of the country,” Dr Swamy wrote.    .

The Janata Party President, who is a former Union Minister for law and justice, wanted the DAE to review its decision to remove ilmenite and other rare earth minerals from the list of prescribed substances. “The reply given by Narayanasamy says:  “Consequent to de-listing of ilmenite, Rutile, Zircon etc. from the list of prescribed substances, no licences or permission are required from DAE for these substances. However, under the guidelines framed by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) individual processors of beach sand have to separate and safely keep the monazite content of such sand. No individual or entity is permitted to process monazite in any manner without a licence from DAE. Further no licences have been given to any private party to process monazite…”

Dr Swamy said that he came across many companies ‘making hay’ by exporting the mineral-rich sand deposits. He pointed out that  Dr P K Iyengar, former chairman, Atomic Energy Commission himself had written to the Prime Minister  about rampant illegal mining and exporting of Monazite from beaches in southern Tamil Nadu.

He also questioned that version of the DAE chairman that there was no indication that use of Thorium is being seriously contemplated by any country other than India.  “There are sufficient reports even in the open domain including IAEA reports and many others to indicate that China has embarked on an aggressive Thorium fuelled reactor program. The DAE is also considering such options and a growing amount of literature is available on this,” he said.

He said in the letter that it would be naive to assume the world demand for Thorium would remain stagnant. “It should be noted that while India is one country technologically capable of using Thorium as a nuclear fuel, the fact that there are other countries of the world attempting similar use should not be discounted. The DAE should be aware that annually USA increases its mineral stockpiles of Thorium and Thorium-bearing materials, sourced from various countries around the globe. References can be provided, if needed,” said Dr Swamy in his letter.

He also pointed out that the Russian built VVER reactors which have been installed at Kudankulam could be fueled with Thorium by making slight modifications. “Many countries including Czechoslovakia, use VVER Reactors of the type being installed in Kudankulam. Such reactors can also use Thorium fuel bundles as brought out in 2010, by a Czech nuclear reactor scientist Jan Frýbort (Copy of the presentation will be sent if needed),” said Dr Swamy.
There is a recently activated Parliamentary lobby in UK to promote the use of Thorium. There is also a recent report of a private company in USA offering Thorium or Uranium based nuclear reactors. A company Molycorp in California is a $1billion rare-earth mining firm including mining of Monazite. The demand for thorium will increase once such efforts outside India reach a production phase in view of dwindling U-235 deposits. Dr Swamy  has referred to the reports appeared in The Pioneer about illegal mining being carried out beyond the licensed areas in southern Tamil Nadu.

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