Uranium Prices: Kazakhstan and China Deepen Ties

Uranium Prices: Kazakhstan and China Deepen Ties

Kazakhstan and China have set up a joint venture under which Kazakhstan will start producing nuclear fuel for Chinese power plants through 2019, according to Reuters.

The joint venture between Kazakh state nuclear company Kazatomprom and China’s CGNPC aims to produce ready-to-use fuel assemblies. During the first stage of the joint venture, about 200 tons of nuclear fuel will be produced, per year, using technologies and equipment supplied by France’s Areva using enriched uranium from either China or Russia.

The joint venture, Ulba-FA, is now building on land at the Ulba plant, Kazakhstan’s main uranium processing factory. Kazakhstan is the world’s top uranium producer and holds about 12% of the world’s uranium resources. In 2016, the country produced 39% of the world’s uranium. In early 2017, it announced a significant cut in uranium production, due to the state of the market.

Although Kazakhstan is a major exporter of uranium it has no enrichment facilities. The country mostly exports uranium as triuranium octoxide or pellets, both of which require further processing before they can be used by power plants.

While Kazakhstan is a major uranium supplier, China is a major consumer. Mainland China has 36 nuclear power reactors in operation, 21 under construction, and more about to start construction. China has a goal of doubling nuclear capacity to at least 58 GWe by 2020-21, then up to 150 GWe by 2030, and much more by 2050. The expansion comes as the country plans to curb its use of coal for electricity generation due to the pollution generated from burning coal.