Canada and Kazakhstan agree nuclear cooperation

25 September 2009

Canada and Kazakhstan have concluded negotiations on the text of a nuclear cooperation agreement, ministers from the two countries have announced.

The negotiations took place during a visit by Canadian international trade minister Stockwell Day to Kazakhstan, and culminated with the signing of a Letter of Intent by Day and Kazakh energy minister Sauat Mynbaev. The two governments will now work to finalise the legal text before signature and implementation.

Day said that the agreement, which will ensure that any nuclear material, equipment or technology transferred by Canada would be used for peaceful purposes only, would open up the civil market to Canadian companies. "Given its expertise in nuclear energy, Canada will continue to play a growing role in this energy-rich country, especially in oil and gas and uranium extraction," he said.

Jerry Grandey, CEO of Canadian uranium producer Cameco, welcomed the agreement, saying it would allow his company to expand its role and presence in Kazakhstan "and develop partnerships that will allow Cameco and Kazatomprom to work together on opportunities to convert uranium." Cameco already has strong links with Kazakhstan, where it owns 60% of the Inkai uranium joint venture. In June 2008 Cameco and Kazakh nuclear company KazAtomProm announced formation of a new company, Ulba Conversion LLP, to build a 12,000 t/yr uranium hexafluoride conversion plant at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Ust-Kamenogorsk, in which Cameco would have a 49% holding as well as providing the technology.

Canada and Kazakhstan are the top two uranium producing countries in the world, with Kazakhstan poised to overtake Canada in the number one spot this year. Kazakhstan already has a major plant making nuclear fuel pellets and has ambitions to supply 30% of the world fuel fabrication market by 2015, as well as being committed to increasing its uranium exports. As well as Canadian involvement, French nuclear giant Areva is involved in the transfer of fuel fabrication technology to Kazakhstan.

Reinforcing Candu attitude

Before travelling to Kazakhstan, Stockwell Day had visited Ukraine, where he discussed the feasibility of using Canadian Candu reactor technology for Ukrainian nuclear energy expansion with the country's minister of fuel and energy Yurij Prodan. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) setting up a framework for collaboration on the technical and economic feasibility of a Candu nuclear power program in Ukraine was signed by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) and Ukraine's Minister of Fuel and Energy last year.