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The nuclear power programme of the country is a three stage programme. The first stage is based on Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR) which is fueled by natural uranium. The second stage envisages utilization of plutonium produced and re-processed from the first stage spent fuel. The third stage is based on thorium for which R&D efforts are in progress. The requirements of thorium would be met from vast resources of the mineral - monazite (a thorium, REE phosphate) in the country. The exploration activities AMD are closely linked to different phases of nuclear fuel cycle, viz. Front end: survey for identification of atomic mineral deposits; Middle: site selection for nuclear power reactors and Back end: selection of suitable sites for waste disposal.

The principal activity of AMD is to identify the resources of uranium, rare metals (Nb-Ta, Be, Li) & rare earths elements (REEs) and beach sand & riverine heavy mineral placers containing minerals of thorium, zirconium etc

Uranium Investigations:

The uranium investigations are carried out across the length and breadth of the country from AMD, HQ, Hyderabad and seven Regional Centres located at Northern Region, New Delhi; Southern Region, Bengaluru; Eastern Region, Jamshedpur; North- eastern Region, Shillong; Western Region, Jaipur; Central Region, Nagpur and South- central Region, Hyderabad. Uranium exploration is guided by the geological criteria and contemporary developments in uranium exploration techniques world over. The uranium exploration commences with study of literature, satellite imageries & aerial photograph interpretation, geochemical and known radioactivity anomalies etc. This is followed by airborne/heliborne gamma-ray spectrometric (ASRS) surveys over favourable areas for narrowing down the target areas. Heliborne geophysical surveys including TDEM, ZTEM, gravity, gamma-ray spectrometric and magnetic surveys are being carried out and hyper-spectral remote sensing studies are planned over Proterozoic Basins of India. Reconnaissance radiometric survey and regional geochemical survey (litho-, pedo- and hydro) are taken up in the target areas. Once uranium anomalies are located, detailed geological mapping, radon emanometry, SSNTD and geophysical surveys (EGPG) on different scales (1:50,000; 1:25,000; 1:10,000; 1:5,000) are then undertaken to narrow down the areas for sub-surface exploration by Drilling. Simultaneously, the samples generated at various stages of exploration are analysed in laboratories for petro-mineralogical, geochemical, geochronologcal, isotopic characterisation and for optimizing flow sheet characters and recovery parameters. In some cases exploratory mining is also carried out for establishing ore body configuration. Once a deposit is proved, it is handed over to Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) for commercial mining.

Achievement of principal activities (1950 to May, 2017)
Principal activities  Achievement
Reconnaissance survey 5,64,577 sq km
Airborne geophysical surveys
 
Fixed wing survey 5,79,195 line km
Heliborne survey 3,56,657 line km
Detailed survey 12,875 sq km
Geochemical survey 2,49,311 sq km
Ground geophysical survey 6,428 sq km
Departmental drilling 2,189.88 km
Contract drilling 1,058.843 km
Reconnaissance radiometric survey Uranium mineral in hand specimen and photomicrograph

Resources

The resources of uranium are estimated jointly with the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) for mining of the deposit. The identified conventional uranium resources (RAR and Inferred) are 2,70,636t U3O8 and are hosted by the following type of deposits.

Uranium Resources (As on May, 2017)

Sl.No.

Deposit Type

Resource %

1

Carbonate

52.39

2

Metamorphite

25.81

3

Sandstone

8.86

4

Proterozoic Unconformity

7.87

5

Metasomatite

3.34

6

Granite-related

1.56

7

Palaeo Quartz Pebble Conglomerate

0.15

Majority of uranium resources occur in following five uranium provinces.

1.Cuddapah Uranium Province, Southern and South Central Regions: In the northern part of Proterozoic Cuddapah basin, unconformity related uranium deposits are located at Lambapur-Peddagattu and Chitrial area in Nalgonda district, Telengana and Koppunuru in Guntur district, Andhra Pradesh. In the southern part of Cuddapah basin, unique strata bound uranium (carbonate-type) deposit is located at Tummalapalle- Rachakuntapalle area, Kadapa district, Andhra Pradesh.

2. Singhbhum Uranium Province, Eastern Region: All the deposits, presently being exploited, such as Jaduguda, Bhatin, Narwapahar, Turamdih, Banduhurang, Bagjata and Mohuldih occur in East Singhbhum district, Jharkhand. The other deposits in this belt are Banadungri-Singridungri, Bangurdih, Nandup, Rajgaon and Garadih. All these occurrences are of metamorphite type.

3.Mahadek Uranium Province, Northeastern Region: The Cretaceous Mahadek Formation in Meghalaya contains the largest and richest sandstone-type uranium deposit of the country at Domiasiat (KPM deposit) in South West Khasi Hills district. Deposits of similar nature at Wahkyn, Wahkut, Gomaghat, Phlangdiloin, Umthongkut, Lostoin and Tyrnai  are also established.

4.Albitite belt of Rajasthan and Haryana, Western and Northern Regions: The Meso-Proterozoic Delhi Super Group of meta-sediments in parts of Rajasthan and Haryana holds potential for metasomatic type of uranium mineralisation. A sizeable metasomatite type deposit hosted by albitised metasediments of Delhi Supergroup has been established at Rohil, Sikar district, Rajasthan.

5.Bhima basin, Southern Region: The Bhima basin comprises arenaceous and calcareous metasediments of Bhima Group deposited over basement granite, which are affected by number of east-west trending major fault zones. A small medium- grade granite and carbonate hosted uranium deposit has been established at Gogi, Yadgir district, Karnataka.

Current & Future Programme

Efforts are underway to augment the uranium resource base of the country by expediting exploration inputs in following geological domains.

1.Proterozoic basins: Various types of uranium deposits in the world including Unconformity and QPC-type are found in the Proterozoic rocks. The unconformity contacts between the Lower Proterozoic rocks with those of Middle-Upper Proterozoic ages are the prime locales for uranium mineralisation. In India, a number of Proterozoic basins such as Cuddapah basin, Andhra Pradesh and Telengana; Aravalli- Delhi fold belt, Rajasthan and Haryana;  Gwalior-Vindhyan basin, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh; Bhima & Kaladgi basins, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh basin in Chhattisgarh and Odisha are known target areas where multidisciplinary investigations have been taken up in search of unconformity type uranium deposits.

2. Phanerozoic basins: Sandstone type of world uranium resources is associated with Phanerozoic rocks. In India, the Phanerozoic sandstone, particularly in the Cretaceous basin of Meghalaya has been one of the main targets for sandstone type uranium deposit. Several deposits have already been established and the entire basin has been considered as one of the thrust areas for uranium investigation. Other Phanerozoic basins which are considered to be potential for uranium mineralisation are Gondwana basins of Central and Eastern India and Siwalik Basin of Himachal Pradesh.

3. Metamorphite and Metasomatite type depositsIn recent past, Metasomatite/ Metamorphite type mineralisation associated with albitites emplaced in tectonised domains have been located in many parts of globe particularly in Russia and Kazakhastan. They owe their origin to both magmatic and metasomatic processes. Such geological set up also exists in India particularly in parts of Rajasthan and Haryana (NDFB), Chhotanagpur Granite Gneiss Complex (CGGC) of Central India and Dharmapuri shear zone of Tamil Nadu. Extensive exploration is being carried out in these geological domains.

4.Quartz pebble conglomerate type deposits: Known Quartz-Pebble Conglomerate (QPC) type uranium deposits occur in basal Lower Proterozoic beds unconformably  overlying Archaean basement rocks in South Africa and Canada. In India, such environments are observed at a number of places like Walkunji in South Kanara District and Arbail in North Kanara district in the Western Ghat Belt, Karnataka, Dhanjori and Iron Ore Basins (IOB) of East Singhbhum district, Jharkand and Sundergarh district, Odisha. Based on the number of anomalies located in these areas, survey has been intensified for locating QPC type of deposits.

5.Polymetallic Proterozoic Iron oxide breccia complex type deposits: After the discovery of the Olympic Dam deposit in Australia, the largest uranium deposit of world, emphasis is also on uranium exploration in similar geological environment. In India, such environments exist in parts of Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Meghalaya where investigations are being carried out with this objective.

Further, a number of the potential sectors in Sonrai-Bijawar basin, Uttar Pradesh; Dongargarh-Kotri Belt, Chhattisgarh; basement fracture systems surrounding the Proterozoic basins such as the Cuddapah and Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are being investigated. Besides, calcrete in western Rajasthan and alkaline intrusive in the Southern Granulite Terrain are being studied for their uranium potential. An extensive drilling programme in potential target areas of the country has already been formulated in order to augment uranium resources.

Rare Metal & Rare Earth Investigations:

The minerals of Rare Metals and Rare Earths (RMRE) are columbite-tantalite, beryl, spodumene, lepidolite and xenotime which generally occur in pegmatites and riverine placers of the country. The investigations commence with survey, followed by pitting / sampling to estimate the grade of the occurrence. These minerals are recovered from gravel portion of the pegmatites by small-scale recovery plants. Separation of these minerals is carried out by physical beneficiation methods and the recovered minerals are stock piled in the godowns (AMSAC).

Beach Sand & Offshore Investigations

The beach sand heavy minerals (BSOI) comprises of ilmenite, leucoxene, rutile, zircon, monazite, garnet and sillimanite occur in different concentrations along the eastern and western coast of the country. These mineral resources are sampled by auger drilling; Conrad Bunka drilling; Dormer drilling and reserves are estimated by mineralogical analysis of both individual and composite samples. Recently, AMD has commenced ‘sonic’ drilling on contract for establishing the beach sand heavy minerals resources in deeper levels of heavy mineral deposits.

Laboratory support

The various laboratories of AMD are equipped with state-of- the-art equipment both at AMD, HQ, Hyderabad and Regional Centres in order to support the atomic minerals exploration programme. These laboratories provide analytical data, which are useful in planning the exploration. AMD HQ, Hyderabad is equipped with Physics, Chemistry, Petrology, EPMA, XRD, WDXRF, EDXRF, Geochronology, Stable isotope, MPU and Instrumentation laboratories. All the Regional Centres are equipped with Physics, Chemistry and Petrology laboratories. Further, WD-XRF laboratories are functioning in Southern, Western and Central Regions also.  The Instrumentation laboratory has design and developed radiation survey meter, borehole trajectory & spectral logging systems and portable gamma ray spectrometer required for the exploration programme.

Environmental studies

Environmental baseline data on rock, soil, water and background radiation are periodically generated in and around promising uranium occurrences/deposits.

 Site selection for nuclear establishments

Geotechnical studies are carried out at every stage of site evaluation starting from regional to site specific investigations.  Initially, available geological and seismotectonic data for 300 km radius around the sites are collected and studied.  Seismotectonic maps are synthesized; active faults and earthquake potential of the structural elements are evaluated.  Remote sensing studies followed by field validation are also carried out. The studies help in setting the seismic parameters for foundation design of nuclear establishment.

 Site selection for waste disposal

Comprehensive geological studies are carried out for candidate sites for storage/disposal of radioactive waste