KazAtomProm president Vladimir Shkolnik has been appointed head of the country's new energy ministry, which puts four previously separate government departments - for oil and gas, solid energy resources, the electricity grid, and the nuclear industry - under one person's control.
During Shkolnik's five years at the helm, state-controlled KazAtomProm became the world's biggest uranium producer - after Canadian Cameco and French Areva - and entered new sectors, including the rare-earth and solar power industries. In 2009, Kazakhstan provided almost 28% of world uranium production. That increased last year to 38%, or 22,574 tonnes of uranium. For comparison, Canada and Australia accounted for 16% and 11%.
Umirzak Shukeyev, chairman of Kazakhstan's sovereign wealth fund, Samruk-Kazyna, said that Shkolnik had proved himself to be a "progressive leader".
The biggest economy in Central Asia, Kazakhstan is also the second largest ex-Soviet oil producer after Russia. It is not expected to maintain its oil output, however, after pipeline gas leaks last year halted production from the Kashagan oil field. Output there is not expected to resume until 2016.
In response to this challenge - along with concerns about the economic difficulties facing key trade partner Russia amid US and European Union-imposed sanctions - Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev said it was "time to concentrate the entire energy sector in the hands of one person."
Nazarbayev announced Shkolnik's appointment among other ministerial changes in a statement on the government's website on 6 August. Oil and gas minister Uzakbai Karabalin will serve as Shkolnik's first deputy in the new ministry.
Nurlan Kapparov, minister of environment and water resources and also KazAtomProm chairman, will take over from Shkolnik at the uranium production company. Shukeyev presented Kapparov to KazAtomProm staff yesterday, Samruk-Kazyna said.
Samruk-Kazyna, which was launched in 2008 to modernize Kazakhstan's economy and help attract foreign investors, has influence over hundreds of state companies in the country, including KazAtomProm and KazMunayGaz.
Shukeyev told KazAtomProm staff that in future Kazatomptom and Samruk-Kazyna will work in close cooperation with the Ministry of Energy.
Set up in 1997, KazAtomProm controls all of Kazakhstan's uranium exploration and mining as well as other nuclear-related activities, including imports and exports of nuclear materials. It announced in 2008 that it aims to supply 30% of the world uranium by 2015, and through joint ventures: 12% of uranium conversion market, 6% of enrichment, and 30% of the fuel fabrication market by then. KazAtomProm has more than 27,000 employees.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News