Australia signs uranium export deal with India

Australia seeks deal to sell uranium to India

India Point Nuclear Power Plant, Hundson by Peretz Partensky| Flickr Commons.

Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi signed Friday a deal allowing uranium exports to India for use in power generation, during a Abbott's two-day state visit.

Australia, which has about one-third of the world’s known uranium reserves, does not allow the mineral to be exported to any country that has not ratified the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, and India is still one of them.

However, the country lifted a long-standing ban on selling uranium to energy-starved India in 2012 and both have been negotiating a nuclear safeguards agreement since then.

"Whether it takes a year, two years, that's really a matter for the market to determine," Abbot said earlier referring to actual uranium shipments, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

India's power issues

India faces chronic shortages of electricity, and a quarter of its billion-plus population has no little or no access to power. About 65% of its installed power generation capacity comes from burning fossil fuels including oil, coal and natural gas, and the country is keen to shift the balance towards nuclear over the next few years.

Trade between the countries has tripled over the past decade, reaching US$14.2 billion (A$15.2bn) in 2013 as Indian demand for Australian coal and other commodities surged.

Friday's follows a civil nuclear agreement between Australia and the United States. The deal with the U.S. was signed in 2008 and allowed Washington to sell nuclear fuel and technology to India without it giving up its military nuclear program.

Abbott’s government recently imposed a ban on uranium sales to Russia, two days after Canberra unveiled fresh sanctions against the country over what the Prime Minister qualified as "bullying" its neighbouring Ukraine.

Uranium is poised to enter a bull market amid tightening supply as producers shut mines and delay projects, more than three years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan sent prices lower.