Canada's Cameco has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Kazakhstan's Kazatomprom to cooperate on the development of uranium conversion capacity and to increase uranium production at Inkai.
Under the terms of the non-binding MoU, Cameco - the world's largest uranium producer - will work with state-owned Kazatomprom to study the feasibility of constructing a uranium conversion facility in Kazakhstan and elsewhere. Cameco would provide the technology and could hold up to 49% of the project.
The MoU also provides for doubling future production from the Inkai uranium deposit in the Suzaksky region of Kazakhstan to 4720 tonnes U3O8 (4000 tU). The Inkai project is owned and operated by Joint Venture Inkai, which is 60% owned by Cameco and 40% by Kazatomprom. The joint venture was formed in 1999. A commercial-scale in-situ leach (ISL) mine is expected to begin operating at Inkai in 2008, with full capacity of 2360 tonnes U3O8 (2000 tU) being reached in 2010. Under the MoU, Cameco's interest in any additional capacity at Inkai would be 50%. The Inkai project has total reserves of 51,700 tonnes U3O8 (43,850 tU).
Binding agreements are expected to be signed later in 2007, Cameco said. Various government approvals will be required as the agreements are implemented.
Jerry Grandey, Cameco's president and CEO, said, "We are pleased to build on the longstanding and strong business relationship we have with Kazatomprom." He added, "This MoU provides significant growth opportunities for both companies."
The move is in line with a general Kazakh policy to develop all areas of the front end of the nuclear fuel cycle. The country has extensive uranium resources, an agreement to enrich that uranium at Angarsk in Russia, and the ability to manufacture fuel pellets for VVER pressurized water reactors.
WNA's Uranium and Nuclear Power in Kazakhstan information paper