Kazakhstan and China discuss fuel assembly production

08 December 2014

Kazakhstan and China are in talks to establish the joint fabrication of fuel assemblies for nuclear power plants, Nurlan Kapparov, president of Kazatomprom, said today.

Kapparov revealed the plan during his working visit to the Ulba Metallurgical Plant (UMZ), the proposed site of an International Atomic Energy Agency-administered low-enriched uranium bank. The company's head "attached the greatest importance" to the prospect of developing the plant to help Kazakhstan attain the full nuclear fuel cycle.

To achieve this, "issues related to implementation of the project on establishing the joint Kazakhstan-Chinese production of fuel assemblies are being studied," Kazatomprom said. "In addition, issues related to UMP’s non-core assets were discussed at the meeting with board members."

In November 2009, the IAEA Board approved a Russian proposal to create an international guaranteed reserve or "fuel bank" of low-enriched uranium under IAEA control at the IUEC at Angarsk. This was established a year later and comprises 123 tonnes of low-enriched uranium (LEU) as UF6, enriched between 2.0% and 4.95% U-235 (with 40 tonnes of the latter), available to any IAEA member state in good standing which is unable to procure fuel for political reasons. It is fully funded by Russia, held under safeguards, and the fuel will be made available to IAEA at market rates, using a formula based on spot prices. Following an IAEA decision to allocate some of it, Rosatom will transport material to St Petersburg and transfer title to IAEA, which will then transfer ownership to the recipient.

This initiative will complement a proposed IAEA "fuel bank" by making more material available to the IAEA for assurance of fuel supply to countries without their own fuel cycle facilities. The 120 tonnes of LEU as UF6 is equivalent to two full fuel loads for a typical 1000 MWe reactor, and in 2010 was worth some $250 million. In May 2012, it was announced that this IAEA "fuel bank" would be located at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant (UMZ) in Kazakhstan, which has 50 years experience in handling UF6.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said in a new report, Kazakhstan and the Global Nuclear Order, published in October that the international nuclear fuel bank is expected to be launched in 2015.

For now Kazakhstan is the only Central Asian state with an interest in developing nuclear energy.

In early 2014, Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbaev requested that the government finalize nuclear power plans by the first quarter of the year. In May 2014, Kazakhstan and Russia signed a memorandum on construction of a nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan. The Kazakh government expects that by 2030 some 4.5% of the country's electricity will come from nuclear energy.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News