Uranium development set for growth on back of good results in 2010

The establishment of a national industrial complex, competitive in both domestic and overseas markets, is the top goal of the Kazakhstan's national atomic company, Kazatomprom, the country's operator for production, import and export of uranium, rare metals, nuclear fuel, power plants, special equipment and dual-purpose materials.

According to the 2010 company report, production of uranium by all producers in Kazakhstan increased by almost 30 percent, where 17,803 tonnes of uranium have been extracted. The volume of uranium mining in the country has doubled last year. Excluding subsidiaries and joint ventures, the company has sold around 9,000 tonnes of uranium, while the value of orders to the national company at the end of year reached US$ 17 billion. In accordance with the report, as a result of growth in sales of uranium products the net profit of the company amounted to about KZT 53 billion, 24 percent more than in 2009 (KZT 147 = US$1). Kazatomprom now plans to invest more than KZT 341 billion in various projects in the next five years.

The company aims to achieve the maximum profit from each kilogram of uranium extracted in the country, including at each and every stage of the nuclear fuel cycle such as conversion, enrichment, production of nuclear fuel, and manufacture of nuclear power plants.

According to the report, a number of large industrial projects have been implemented last year. For instance, the launch of an industrial complex and geo-technological field, in particular of a sat-factory-1 at the station number 2 of the Inkai deposit. LLP Karatau has expanded the research and industrial production of uranium at the station number 2 of the Budenovskoye deposit; the LLP Catco has increased the production capacity of the station number 2 of Tortkuduk at Moiynkum deposit, while the LLP Baiken-U has established a residential complex for 245 people at the rural district of Baykenzhe Zhanakorgan in the Kyzylorda region.

Among other successfully implemented projects is the company's issuing of 5-year Eurobonds worth US$ 500 million at the rate of 6.25 percent, organised by JP Morgan, BNP Paribas and Halyk Finance.

In addition, Kazatomprom and the Cameco Corporation are currently working on a joint project of uranium conversion production. They also signed a memorandum of understanding, which provides for the development of the refinery production at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant (UMP), Kazatomprom's subsidiary, and the expansion of conversion capacity at the plant in Springfields, UK.

In the field of uranium enrichment, an agreement between Russia's Rosatom and Kazatomprom on alternative development of the Centre for Uranium Enrichment project has also been reached in 2010, where the capital of the Ural Electrochemical Plant (UEP) located in Novouralsk, Russia, is shared by Kazakhstan.

During the official visit of President Nazarbayev to France last October, a number of documents on cooperation were signed between Kazatomprom and the European partners, such as the agreement on joint activities in the production of fuel assemblies at the UMP between the Kazatomprom and French multinational industrial conglomerate, AREVA.

According to the press service of the Kazakh Foreign Ministry, it is expected that the joint venture, where Kazatomprom and AREVA hold 51 percent 49 percent of shares accordingly, will construct and start a production of fuel assemblies with the capacity 400 tonnes per year by 2014. Last year, the UMP has finished the process of certification of fuel pellets of uranium dioxide on the specification of AREVA. With that, the Kazakh company now has the right to produce fuel for the French-designed reactors which are used worldwide. Furthermore, an agreement on joint research work in the field of solar energy (PV) with the French Atomic and Alternative Energies Commission (CEA), a memorandum on establishing a joint Kazakh-French scientific laboratory of rare and rare-earth metals with the Bureau of Geological and Mining Research (BRGM), as well as a memorandum on organisation of higher education and advanced training for the personnel of the Kazakh nuclear industry with the European Company for Strategic Intelligence (CEIS) were also signed.

In addition, the UMP and the Japanese Nuclear Fuel Industries Ltd have carried out the certification of uranium dioxide powders produced in Kazakhstan for Japanese nuclear power plants, thereby allowing the Kazakh-made nuclear fuel components to be supplied to the Japanese market. The UMP has also successfully certified its uranium fuel pellets with China Jianzhong Nuclear Fuel, a constituent of the China's National Nuclear Company (CNNC), consequently, giving a start to a major project on delivery of uranium fuel pellets to the largest owner of nuclear power plants in China, China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC).

According to Kazatomprom, the company launched two autonomous energy complexes based on wind and solar energy in Astana in June 2010. Also, Legmash LLP  was founded for the production of heat pump systems. Furthermore, serial production of wind-driven power plants as the Kazatomprom's subsidiary, Mashzavod, has been established.

A joint venture SARECO LLP, within the framework of Kazakhstan's scientific development in manufacturing of a maximum output-level products on the base of rare and rare-earth metals, has been established with the Japanese Sumitomo Corporation, while another joint venture between the Kazatomprom and the Toshiba Corporation is at the final stage of formation.