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Australia eyes Indian collaboration in setting up Nuclear Waste Storage projects

Even as obstacles have been lifted for Australia’s export of uranium to fuel India’s nuclear power plants, South Australia has said a huge business opportunity awaits Indian firms that can help it set up nuclear waste disposal facilities. South Australia, a state in south central Australia, houses over a quarter of the world’s uranium resources and about 70 per cent of Australia’s reserves of the heavy metal.

Recently, a Royal Commission looked into the potential for increasing South Australia’s participation in the nuclear fuel cycle including in the establishment of facilities for the storage and disposal of radioactive and nuclear waste. The Commission’s viability analysis determined that “a waste disposal facility could generate more than (Australian) $100 billion income in excess of expenditure … over the 120-year life of the project.”

Such a facility must be owned and controlled by the state government, the Commission suggested, adding that local community consent was required to host such a facility. Political bipartisanship and stable government policy were also essential, it observed.

Business opportunity
In an interview to The Hindu, Martin Hamilton-Smith, South Australia’s minister for investment, trade, defence industries, small business and veteran’s affairs, said once the proposal to establish a nuclear waste disposal facility got the local community’s consent, South Australia would pass a legislation to make it a reality. He said such a move would then open up a business opportunity for countries including India. Countries, including India, could then consider signing an agreement with Australia on setting up nuclear waste disposal facilities in South Australia.

Welcoming India’s decision to liberalise Foreign Direct Investment norms related to the defence sector, Mr. Hamilton-Smith said it had almost coincided with the Australian government’s approval for construction of offshore patrol vessels in Adelaide (South Australia).

This, in addition to the building of submarines, frigates and air warfare destroyers, would lead to Adelaide becoming home to a defence industry worth about A$90 billion, he said. Noting that India was also looking at building submarines, frigates and offshore patrol vehicles, he said this would be “an opportunity for Indian companies to get involved in Australian work and Australian companies to get involved in Indian work.”

Mr. Hamilton-Smith added, “We share the Indian Ocean. We are close friends and allies, and the relationship will be even better when we cooperate with one another in these advanced manufacturing areas.”

Clean water
On the other areas where India can expect the transfer of technology from Australia, particularly from South Australia, he said: “There is a lot of scope for transfer of technology in the areas of water (desalination & clean water technologies) and food.”

Pointing out that South Australia has one of the world's top three centres of excellence in ‘plant functional genomics’, the minister said that “there is plenty of scope for us to exchange technologies in food, wine, aquaculture, food sciences and medical sciences.” He said in the proposed India-Australia free trade agreement, South Australia would like to see lower tariffs on food and wine manufactured and exported from that region.

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