Tamil Nadu holds key to Nuclear energy dreams

DC | S. V. KRISHNA CHAITANYA
Published Jun 8, 2015, 1:09 pm IST
Updated Mar 28, 2019, 11:00 pm IST
AU project to map natural minerals
Monazite
 Monazite
ChennaiWith India in pursuit of thorium-fuelled reactors after dreaming big on high nuclear energy, the spotlight is on southern and eastern coasts which offer an abundance of Monazite, an atomic mineral which contains 8-10 percent thorium. In comparison, Tamil Nadu arguably has the highest concentration of Monazite deposits along its coast line that spans over 1,076 km. The beach sand in the southernmost district Kanyakumari is literally a goldmine for the nuclear gold as many refer to this precious mineral.
 
In order to protect this natural resource that has potential to spin the fortunes of India, Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF & CC) through National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM) has sanctioned a project titled “Coastal Mineral Mapping” to Institute of Ocean Management (IOM) of Anna University here. This is India’s first exhaustive attempt to map and record all the natural minerals available in length and breadth of Indian coastal line.
 
Speaking exclusively to Deccan Chronicle, IOM Director Dr S. Srinivasalu said Atomic Mineral Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD) of Department of Atomic Energy is working in tandem with the 20-member team of IOM.
 
“We are not just focussing on Monazite, but mapping every natural mineral found. The beach sands of India – especially Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Kerala and Andhra — are rich in several heavy minerals such as ilmenite, rutile, leucoxene, garnet, sillimanite, zircon and monazite. These minerals are used in several industries from steel and electronics to jewellery and ceramics. Monazite, however, contains thorium, a nuclear fuel of much interest”, Dr Srinivasalu said. 
 
The project commenced in March this year and is expected to be completed within a year. Official said the objective is to provide the government with authentic data base on area-wise specification of the type and quantum of natural minerals available. 
 
“This will help both the central and state governments in decision making. We have already completed the minerals mapping in Gujarat and West Bengal. Shortly, the exercise will start in Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Andhra and Kerala. The remaining states will be covered in next phase”.
 
Mr J. Shankar, retired geologist from Geological Survey of India (GSI), who is working in the project, said Monozite is a strategic mineral having radioactive properties. We can process it to remove thorium, which is a nuclear fuel. “By itself, monazite is not of great significance. We will have to put it in a reactor, cook it and you get Uranium-233, which is a fissile material”.
 
Meanwhile, retired professor Seralathan of Cochin University said the team is collecting sand samples from every 1-4 km stretch and separate the minerals and record them. “It’s an exhaustive exercise”.
...
Location: Tamil Nadu




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