As China's demand for nuclear fuel increases, China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) is planning to purchase a uranium deposit in Niger and buy uranium extracted from coal ash in order to meet its requirements.
China Nuclear International Uranium Co (CNIU), a subsidiary of CNNC, plans to buy the Azelik uranium deposit in Niger, Liu Xuehong, vice president of CNIU told XFN-Asia. He said that the company would establish a joint venture with a local government agency in Niger to develop the project. Liu said that CNIU is also currently contacting companies in Canada, Australia and Kazakhstan with the aim of forming partnerships, either by purchasing deposits or by taking a stake in those foreign companies.
Uranium was discovered at Azelik in 1957 by the French Bureau de Recherches Geologiques et Minieres (BRGM), looking for copper. The French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) initiated further studies.
CNNC is also looking to coal ash as a source of uranium. The company's Comprehensive Planning Department has given Sparton Resources Inc of Canada approval to proceed with advanced coal ash leaching tests commissioned with Beijing Number 5 Testing Institute. Sparton signed an agreement in January with the Xiaolongtang Guodian Power Co, a subsidiary of China Guodian Group, for a program to test and possibly commercialize the extraction of uranium from waste coal ash at the company's Xiaolongtang thermal power stations in Yunnan province. Samples of fly ash from the Xiaolongtang plant have now been sent to the Number 5 Institute for testing. Some 25-50 tonnes of fly ash from the plant are expected to be tested over 3-4 months, resulting in 3.5 to 7 kilograms of uranium oxide.
Early stage testing of fly ash samples from Xiaolongtang power station by Lyntek has indicated that the material contains some 0.46 pounds of U308 per tonne of ash (160-180 parts per million uranium), and that over 70% of this contained uranium is soluble in acid extraction solutions. The power station ash heap contains over 1000 tU and annual arisings are over 106 tU. The nearby coal mine supplying the power plant has sufficient coal to supply the station for over 20 years at current boiler burning capacity.
In addition to approving the tests, CNNC has also agreed to purchase any uranium oxide produced from these tests, in addition to any future uranium production from the program. Sparton said the price "will reflect appropriate market conditions and will be negotiated between CNNC and the operating company organized for commercialization of production if the current tests are successful and lead to a production decision by the partners."
Sparton said that it is also actively evaluating new opportunities for non-conventional uranium recovery programs in a number of other countries.
China National Nuclear Corp
WNA's Nuclear Power in China information paper
WNA's Uranium in Niger and Gabon information paper
WNA's Naturally-Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) information paper
WNN: Project to extract uranium from coal ash
WNN: China plans strategic uranium reserves