India uranium deal a boost for WA

WA's fledgling uranium sector will be a step closer to becoming an export industry when Tony Abbott signs an historic deal clearing the way for Australian companies to sell yellowcake to India.

But the pact will not come without controversy, with warnings the new trade will allow India to quarantine domestic supplies of uranium for nuclear weapons and concerns about the safety of Indian nuclear plants.

The Prime Minister arrives in Mumbai today as part of a two-day visit to India. He will also visit Malaysia before returning to Australia.

The Government says a deal to export uranium to India became possible after the country assured Australia any uranium it buys would be used for power generation only and not weapons.

The decision to sell uranium to India comes despite the country's refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which would require the country to give up its nuclear arms.

India, which is thought to have about 100 nuclear weapons, has been engaged in a long-running territorial stand-off with its neighbour Pakistan, which also has nuclear weapons.

But supporters of the plan say nuclear power will give cheap and plentiful electricity to India's poor.

The deal with India will not only allow the export of uranium, but also allow investment by Indian companies in Australian uranium mines.

The first uranium mine expected to begin production in WA is Toro Energy's Wiluna project.

Toro managing director Vanessa Guthrie told _The West Australian _ it was hoped Wiluna would be producing uranium in 2017.

"This (deal) is very significant because it opens up opportunities for a new market for Australian uranium," Professor Guthrie said.

Professor Guthrie is travelling to India as part of a business delegation accompanying the PM.

The market price for uranium has been depressed for several years, thanks to low demand and concerns over safety after Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster.

But the Indian deal is expected to boost prices and make marginal mines in Australia economic.

India wants 25 per cent of its electricity to come from nuclear power by 2050. Currently about 4 per cent of the country's power comes from nuclear plants,

The West Australian

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