Kazakh companies will tool up to provide components of nuclear fuel destined for 11 nuclear power reactors in Japan under a new agreement.
The Ulba complex currently includes facilities to produce nuclear fuel pellets for Russian-design RBMK and VVER units and so must expand its capabilities in order to produce fuel for Kansai's units, which are all of Mitsubishi design. Under existing alliances a facility to make full fuel assemblies is due to be completed in 2011-2012, with Toshiba-Westinghouse acting as technical partner, while Ulba could also expand to carry out conversion of Kazakh-mined uranium for the enrichment stage that comes before pellet fabrication.
Early in 2006 KazAtomProm signed a $100 million joint venture agreement with Sumitomo (25%) and Kansai (10%) to develop a uranium deposit at West Mynkuduk in Kazakhstan. First production from the project is expected in 2008 with design capacity of 1000 tonnes of uranium per year by 2010. As a trading house, Sumitomo's interest is to supply uranium from the mine to Japanese power utilities.
In August 2006 then Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev issued a joint statement calling for the "successful materialization of significant projects in the area of exploration, development and production of uranium resources." This was followed in May 2007 by a high-level Japanese delegation which signed 24 agreements on energy cooperation with Kazakh companies.
One particular multinational project involves the exploitation of two uranium deposits at Kharasan to yield 5000 tonnes of uranium per year around 2014.
Together, Japanese companies Marubeni, Toyko Electric Power Co (Tepco), Chubu Electric Power Co, Tohuko Electric Power Co, Kyushu Electric Power Co and Toshiba own a 40% stake of the Kharasan holding company giving them 2000 tonnes of uranium per year between them.
Kharasan is expected to continue operating until about 2050, by which time it could potentially produce over 160,000 toones of uranium.