A deal that would give China a share in Kazakhstan's uranium production in return for a stake in China's nuclear power plants is making progress, shortly after Kazakh state nuclear company KazAtomProm announced future fuel production plans through its shareholding in Westinghouse.
According to KazAtomProm President Moukhtar Dzhakishev, Chinese nuclear power companies China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) and China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corp (CGNP) are to take a 49% stake in a uranium mining venture in Kazakhstan with KazAtomProm retaining a 51% stake. In exchange, KazAtomProm would take equity in Chinese nuclear fuel processing or electricity generation plants. "This is the first time China has allowed any foreign company to become a shareholder in its atomic power industry enterprises," said Dzhakishev, although he did not elaborate on the plants and ventures involved. KazAtomProm announced in October that a framework agreement had been signed with CNNC and CGNP laying the groundwork for future joint venture projects to extract Kazakh uranium and for Kazakh investment in China's nuclear power industry.
Details of an agreement signed by the Chinese government are due to be finalized within weeks.
KazAtomProm has also been trumpeting its plans to corner a third of the world nuclear fuel market through its recent acquisition of a 10% stake in Westinghouse from majority shareholder Toshiba. Speaking after participating in KazAtomProm's first Westinghouse shareholders' meeting, Dzhakishev announced that an agreement had been reached for KazAtomProm to supply the fuel for Toshiba-Westinghouse reactors in new markets. The agreements would allow KazAtomProm to receive a licence for manufacturing fuel assemblies, which would in turn open access to new markets, he noted.
KazAtomProm's Ulba Metallurgical Plant manufactures nuclear fuel pellets for Russian and Ukrainian nuclear power plants. A fuel assembly production facility at the plant is due to be completed in 2011-2012, with Toshiba-Westinghouse acting as technical partner, according to Dzhakishev.
The Kazakh company has made no secret of its ambition to supply fuel to one in three of the world's reactors by 2030. It anticipates that an additional 455 nuclear reactors will be built by then, with 300 of them built by Toshiba-Westinghouse. Predictions from other sources suggest a much more sober outlook - the reference case scenario in the World Nuclear Association's recently published 2007 Market Report anticipates only 130 new reactors by 2030.
WNA's Uranium and Nuclear Power in Kazakhstan information paper
WNA's Nuclear Power in China information paper
WNN: Kazatomprom strategises with China
WNN: Kazatomprom buys 10% stake in Westinghouse