New fabrication plant for Kazakhstan

08 December 2016

Construction of a nuclear fuel fabrication plant has begun in Kazakhstan, KazAtomProm, CGN and Areva have announced. The plant will use Areva fabrication technology and will be managed by a joint venture between KazAtomProm and China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC).

The three companies said the plant would have a production capacity of 200 tonnes of fuel assemblies per year, with production scheduled to begin in 2020. It will be managed through Ulba-FA, a joint venture of KazAtomProm subsidiary Ulba Metallurgical Plant (UMP) (51%) and CGNPC subsidiary CGN-URC (49%).

A contract has been signed by Areva NP and Ulba-FA that provides a licence for fuel fabrication technology, engineering documentation, the supply of key production equipment and personnel training.

A joint statement issued by the three companies described construction of the plant as "one of the breakthrough projects to be implemented under KazAtomProm's strategy, which focuses on the development of a vertically integrated fuel cycle company with advanced nuclear fuel fabrication facilities."

Kazakhstan is currently the world's leading uranium producer, accounting for 39% of output in 2015, and already has the capability to manufacture fuel pellets at UMP's 2000 tonne per year plant. KazAtomProm has previously said it aims to supply up to one-third of the world fuel fabrication market by 2030. Areva signed an agreement with KazAtomProm to build a fabrication plant in 2011, following earlier agreements signed in 2010 and 2008.

Kazakhstan has been moving towards becoming a major nuclear fuel supplier to China, with CGN-URC and UMP signing agreements earlier this year for the development of Kazakh uranium mines and the construction of a nuclear fuel plant in Kazakhstan. In late November, officials from KazAtomProm and the Kazakh government visited China for talks on enhanced cooperation in the uranium mining and nuclear power sectors, including the supply of Kazakh uranium products to China.

The companies said the new fuel fabrication plant is expected to have a "guaranteed market" for 20 years. Half of the KZT 49 billion ($147 million) investment in the plant would be provided by the Chinese partner.

KazAtomProm CEO Askar Zhumagaliyev said the plant was the result of long-term cooperation between Kazakhstan, China and France and was a strategic step by KazAtomProm towards production diversification. "Maintaining our uranium mining leadership, we are planning to offer to the market fuel for nuclear power plants of Kazakh origin, which will allow us to strengthen our position on the global nuclear market," he said.

CGNPC director general Zhang Shanming said the project allowed CGNPC and KazAtomProm to take their cooperation to a "new level".

Areva CEO Philippe Knoche said Areva had started production of the necessary equipment for the project. "Areva is proud to be selected as a full scope technology provider for this future fuel plant. This contract reinforces the strong links between Areva, KazAtomProm and CGNPC," he said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News