Kazakhstan is aggressively internationalizing its uranium industry.
A new uranium mine has opened near Kyzylorda. When fully functional, it is expected to supply about 750 tons of uranium per year to China’s nascent nuclear power industry. It is the first joint Chinese-Kazakh venture, so it may portend the slow advance of Chinese influence in the region everyone (including us) has been predicting.
The opening took place the day after the start of the Kharasan 1 project, an extraction venture down near Shymkent shared by Canada and Japan and Kazatomprom. This time, the uranium is mostly bound for Japanese nuclear power plants.
Meanwhile, Toshiba—apparently encouraged by Kazatomprom’s purchase of its stake in Westinghouse in 2007—is looking to buy nuclear fuel rod assemblies from Kazakhstan as well. Toshiba has a stake in both Kharasan 1 and the Baiken-U project, which is developing the Kharasan 2 project further north.
The corporate entities in both Kharasan projects are identical: a 40% stake held by a Japanese consortium, a 30% stake held by an enormous Canadian company, UrAsia Energy, and a 30% stake held by Kazatomprom. But here’s the thing: the world’s biggest uranium producer has, for years, been Cameco, another Canadian mega-corp that also has gold mining interests. But the rapid expansion of Kazakhstan’s uranium industry in recent years—entirely, as best I can tell, sole-sourced to Kazatomprom—means that this year the Kazakh energy conglomerate is on track to replace Cameco as the world’s largest uranium extractor. (ahem).
With Kazakhstan receiving millions of U.S. dollars to continue setting up its global uranium fuel bank, it looks like Kazakhstan will become the world’s dominant player in uranium projects—even if it still doesn’t have any projects outside of Kazakhstan’s territory.
Of course, the other side of Kazakhstan’s rise is the continued presence of UrAsia Energy. While it’s not clear whether it is currently involved in any disreputable behavior, the company did gain some notoriety after the New York Times reported that Frank Giustra, UrAsia Energy’s former CEO, used a handshake from Bill Clinton to secure several mining projects. (If anyone can find out which projects, my contact info is in the upper left). The deal came to light right when Hillary Clinton’s fortunes in the U.S. Presidential election primary were faltering, prompting an embarrassing outburst by the former American president.
Registan.net’s previous coverage of Kazakhstan’s rise to nuclear energy dominance:
Japan in Central Asia
A New World Bank… for Uranium
Kazakhstan Wants a Piece of Westinghouse
Opposition to Kazatomprom-Westinghouse Deal
Russia’s World Bank for Uranium
Bill Clinton Did Something not at all Sketchy
Is Kazatomprom Dominating the Global Nuclear Industry?
Kazakhstan to Supply Uranium to India
Kazakhstan Continues to Push for Global Uranium Reserve
(Image courtesy Uranium1)