May 26, 2017 / 11:46 AM / 4 months ago

Kazakhstan to produce nuclear fuel for China

FILE PHOTO: Uranium pellets, a nuclear fuel product for atomic power plants, are seen on a production line at Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Kazakhstan's eastern town of Ust-Kamenogorsk in this August 11, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov/Files

OSKEMEN, Kazakhstan (Reuters) - Kazakhstan, the world’s biggest uranium producer, will start producing nuclear fuel for Chinese power plants in 2019 through a joint venture set up by the two countries, a senior official at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant told Reuters.

The joint venture, Ulba-FA, is now building on land at the Ulba plant, Kazakhstan’s main uranium processing factory.

The Central Asian nation has no enrichment facilities and mostly exports uranium in the form of triuranium octoxide or pellets, both of which require further processing before being used by power plants.

By contrast, the joint venture between Kazakh state nuclear company Kazatomprom and China’s CGNPC aims to produce ready-to-use fuel assemblies. It will procure enriched uranium either in China or in Russia, the Ulba plant’s head of sales Alexander Khodanov said on Friday.

The first stage of the joint venture will produce about 200 tonnes of nuclear fuel a year using technologies and equipment supplied by France’s Areva.

Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic that borders China, has no nuclear power plants of its own.

Reporting by Mariya Gordeyeva; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by David Goodman

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