Kazakhstan's nuclear company is to set up an atomic energy institute in partnership with Toshiba. With support from other Japanese firms it plans to begin exporting high-tech products from materials that currently go to waste.
|The scene in Astana during the meeting
The developments were outlined yesterday to Kazakh prime minister Karim Masimov by the president of KazAtomProm, Moukhtar Dzhakishev. The meeting covered a range of topics, hearing calls for the country to establish a regulatory body for its nuclear energy industry as would be required before nuclear power plants are constructed.
Feasibility studies are underway to two power reactors in Kazakhstan and it is thought new units could operate from 2016. In the field of uranium mining, KazAtomProm aims to become the world's premier exporter of the raw material for nuclear energy. This resource is to be put to further use as KazAtomProm engages in other businesses in the nuclear fuel cycle, preparing the uranium and putting together finished fuel assemblies ready for use in power reactors across the world.
Toshiba and other Japanese firms have agreed to towards these aims, while the two countries have established strong bonds at the top level relating to technology transfer in return for uranium supply.
Masimov approved the overall scheme of the nuclear industry and said that he believed 'nuclear power is one of those areas which can give general impetus to Kazakhstan's energy as well as the entire economy as a whole.'
Atomic energy institute
Key to KazAtomProm's aims will be an atomic energy institute to be set up in partnership with Toshiba in the eastern town of Kurchatov - near to Semipalatinsk, the Soviet Union's former nuclear weapons testing range. Because of this history the area already has what Dzhakishev called excellent academic institutions.
Dzhakishev said the deal with Toshiba would produce a 'single international centre in which we could accumulate those academic skills that we need in the future.' The new addition would focus on the commercial nuclear power topics of uranium mining, conversion, nuclear fuel production, fuel assembly manufacture and reactor technology.
A rare earth metals department would also be set up to support new factories for quartz optical electronics, which could produce solar-grade silicon. With the support of Toyota and Marubeni as well as Toshiba, the range of rare earth products could be expanded to include solar cells, batteries, semiconductors, magnets, components for hybrid cars and medical products. Ultimately, a high-tech export business worth $1 billion per year could be developed based on materials that KazAtomProm currently throws away, Dzhakishev said.
However, certain treaties must be signed before these business deals can be put into action with Japanese firms, a Kazakh government release said. Masimov ordered his staff to resolve all issues related to the outstanding agreements.