Tuesday, June 27, 2006

India's so-called Uranium Shortage

Henry Sokolski wrote this masterpiece in the National Review.

In the article Henry says-

This sounds persuasive until you realize that the uranium reserves they are talking about are not in some neat pile above ground and ready for use, but locked instead in very low concentrations well beneath the earth’s surface in strata that have yet to be mined and milled to produce usable yellowcake. Indian uranium is notorious for its poor quality. India has had great difficulty in expanding its uranium production beyond its miserly 300 tons mined and milled per year, largely because its uranium mines are so uneconomical and their possible expansion has drawn fierce environmental protests. It costs India approximately five times as much to mine and mill its domestic ore as it does simply to buy uranium on the international spot market.

Thank you Henry for pointing that out to us. As long as the international Uranium market remains closed to India - thanks to people like you - the Indians have no choice but to mine their own Uranium. The "expensive" Indian Uranium is still cheaper than the unavailable uranium which the NSG cartel has. The only thing holding India back from the exploitation of its Uranium reserves is the "environmental protests".

That seems odd - considering how poor and infrastructurally deprived India is - why would Indians place environmental costs over an improved standard of living? Every Indian wants electricity - and the DAE promises to deliver it without the accompanying pollution from carbon dioxide or ash emissions - why does the Indian environmentalist community feel compelled to oppose Uranium mining?

Actually who are the stalwarts of this anti-Uranium mining struggle? are they the same people who led the environmental charge to save India's biodiversity? Are these the same guys who invested their lives in protecting Indian forests and indigenous people? -- it seems they are not.

Most of the people in this anti-Uranium mining in India struggle are completely new faces we have never seen before. Folks like Sudhindra and Sanghamitra Gadekar, and others who are friends of organizations like WISE and ANAWA. There are a few familiar faces like Buddhi Kota Subbarao in the opposition, whom we all know by now. And yes there are atleast a few very familiar faces in the opposition like MAPW.

Some questions that can easily come to mind:-

1) Why are so many of these groups based in Europe or Australia or Canada (home to Cogema and Cameco - the producers of 80% of the world's supply of Uranium)?

2) Why are there so many American "foundations" keen to fund the Indian anti-Uranium mining groups?

3) Why do American Non-Proliferation think-tanks provide so much footage and focus so much media attention on unverified claims made by these Indian groups?

4) How is that in parts of India where there is no tapped water, no schools, no concrete for construction, roads or phone lines, and bare enough food to eat - the residents manage to come up expensive well typed reports containing detailed accounts of their illnesses due to Uranium mining? also how is it that these "poor disenfranchised tribals" can build up flashy websites and make movies about their plight?

5) Why is that whenever a medical or survey team from the government visits the "affected belt" - the locals demand money to produce "people suffering from radiation sickness"?

Perhaps the answer can be found again in Henry's article which states,

What’s blocking India from importing foreign ore? The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), of which the U.S. is a member. This control cartel prohibits nuclear suppliers from selling uranium to any nation that did not have nuclear weapons prior to 1967 unless it opens all of its nuclear facilities to international inspections—something India refuses to do.

Ah- ha... so that is what the real deal is.

The international Uranium control cartel uses proliferation concerns to limit access to technologies it deems "harmful" to "world" (i.e. its own) interests.

Would it be fair to say that the Uranium mining cartels have price fixed the market?

Would it be fair to say that the Uranium mining cartels in Australia and umm... elsewhere have a desire to see India not exploit its known reserves of Uranium - to the fullest.

In the 80s every Non-Proliferation theologian was busy telling the world that India did not have the capability to produce heavy water and as a result of this inability - India's nuclear power program was simply a fantasy. Ofcourse few Non-Proliferation Pundits care to tell you that today India is one of the world's largest producers of heavy water.

Today - Non-Proliferation expert after expert is lining up to tell India that it does not have the Uranium needed to make its nuclear power program suceed. Lets see where things stand in a few years.

I guess the bottom line - as I see it - is that the Indo-US nuclear deal isn't so much a nuclear deal between the US and India. It is more a strategy for reaching a modus vivendi with the Uranium mining cartels which seem to have a vested interest in ensuring that India's domestic energy resources remain overpriced.


At 1:57 AM, Anonymous cynical nerd said...

Maverick: Excellent expose of these environmental NGOs - This piece deserves to be disseminated far and wide - Gadekar does ring a bell - there is also one MV Ramana.


At 6:12 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Cynical Nerd,

There are two problems with Uranium based energy. Firstly the mining of Uranium is subject to a pricing cartel. If you mine it cheaper than the cartel price they will harass you.

And then secondly there is the problem with Uranium enrichment which is an oligopoly. The four odd players in that market all move in ways that preserve their market share and keep nearly 50% profit margins.


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