NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Rio Tinto Ltd expects to start exporting Australian uranium to India in the next two years, its chief executive said, as soon as safeguards are in place to restrict its use to power generation.
“Once all those steps are in place, clearly there is an opportunity for us and Australia here,” Sam Walsh said on the sidelines of an energy conference on Monday.
India has nuclear weapons and, like its neighbour Pakistan, has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Australia has never before sold uranium to a non-signatory of the NPT.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who took office in May, aims to raise the share of nuclear power in electricity generation from just 3 per cent, as part of a strategy to curb chronic power shortages and cut reliance on oil imports.
Modi and his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott sealed a deal in September for Australia to sell India uranium, in a show of international acceptance toward India’s nuclear programme.
India has nuclear energy agreements with 11 countries and imports uranium from France, Russia and Kazakhstan.