Russia and Kazakhstan internationalize the fuel cycle

10 January 2007

A uranium enrichment centre will be developed on Russian soil in cooperation with Kazakhstan. The facility will be placed under IAEA control and will mark a significant step towards internationalization of the nuclear fuel cycle.


One of three joint ventures between the neighbouring states, the project would see Kazakh uranium enriched near Angarsk in the politically stable and sparsely populated Irkutsk region in the centre of Asian Russia.


The cooperative measures were announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on 12 October in Moscow. The agreements were based on earlier negotiations by the firms Tenex , Atomstroyexport and Kazatomprom at a working meeting held by Kazakh prime minister Danial Akhmetov and Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) chief Sergei Kiri y enko on 25 July. The countries' presidents agreed to integrate parts of their nuclear industries in January this year. 


The other joint ventures between the countries concern the development of small power reactors for the Kazakh and Russian markets and the development of the South Zarechnoye and Budenovskoye uranium deposits in Kazakhstan.


The country has about 20% of the world's uranium ore and has ambitious plans to triple production to 15,000 tonnes of uranium by 2010. However, the country does not at present have a uranium enrichment capability which could add value to Kazakhstan's uranium ore reserve.


Kiriyenko said that the international enrichm ent centre could begin operations by the end of 2006, and that Angarsk "has always been connected with the nuclear sector's civilian side." He added: "The enterprise in Angarsk can be put under IAEA control." 


Angarsk already hosts a centrifuge-based uranium enrichment plant capable of 2,500,000 separative work units each year, about 10% of the Russian total capacity. The internationalization will be executed in three phases:   The first phase will be to use part of the existing capacity under IAEA supervision in cooperation with Kazakhstan. The second phase sees expansion in cooperation with new partners, who will fund the expansion of the plant by as much as double. The third phase would see full internationalization of the operation with many nations benefiting from assured supply of uranium enrichment under IAEA auspices.


Further information 

International Atomic Energy Agency

WNA's Uranium and Nuclear Power in Kazakhstan information paper 
WNA's Nuclear Power in Russiainformation paper