Kazakhstan plans to expand uranium production in 2007, in addition to marketing its nuclear fuel products to Western and Asian markets.
The country plans to increase uranium production by 31% in 2007, to 6937 tonnes, compared with output of 5279 tonnes in 2006, the Kazakh Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry announced.
Over the 2001-2005 period, Kazakh uranium production rose from 2000 to 4357 tonnes per year, and further mine development is underway with a view to annual production of 15,000 tonnes by 2010.
In July 2006, Russia and Kazakhstan (through Kazatomprom) signed three 50:50 nuclear joint venture agreements (JVs) totalling $10 billion for new nuclear reactors, uranium production and enrichment.
The first JV with Atomstroyexport is for the development and marketing of innovative small- and medium-sized reactors, starting with OKBM's VBER-300 as baseline for Kazakh units. Russia's Atomstroyexport expects to build the initial one.
The second JV with Techsnabexport (Tenex) is for a uranium enrichment plant at Angarsk in southern Siberia where Russia has its main conversion plant and a small enrichment plant; this will be the first international enrichment centre.
The uranium exploration and mining JV with Tenex will start with Budenovskoye in the Stepnoye area of south Kazakhstan, which is due to start production in 2008. This will evidently complement the Zarechnoye JV, 250 km to the south, which was set up in June 2006.
The Ulba Metallurgical Plant (UMP), part of the Kazatomprom group, plans to begin marketing its uranium product in Asia during 2007. The company will supply lead batches of uranium to China, Japan and South Korea. UMP has also been pursing certification of its products with nuclear fuel producers in Canada, Europe and the USA, having sent them lead batches of natural and low-enriched uranium dioxide powders.
In order to expand the plant's capabilities, UMP is building new production lines, as well as modernizing old ones, in addition to introducing new technologies. The company aims to be involved in the entire front end of the nuclear fuel cycle, from uranium mining through to fuel assembly fabrication, as well as nuclear power plant construction. According to Nurlan Musin, Director General of UMP, the company "will become a full-pledged player among the world's nuclear power complex enterprises."
Ulba Metallurgical Plant
WNA's Uranium and Nuclear Power in Kazakhstan information paper